Category Archives: Blog

Keeping up with technology…a lot like Formula 1

Uniface, being a low-code platform which shields developers from technology changes in the application stack, takes pride on staying on top of the leading edge of technology. To start, the application stack I refer to is based on the Open Systems Interconnection model (OSI) defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) about the interoperability and communication layers. So all the technologies needed to maintain applications’ interoperability while communicating to achieve the business goal as programmed by the developers.

In Uniface development, we have a track record of keeping up with technology, nowadays more challenging than 33 years ago when Uniface started of course. 😉

Let me share how Uniface development approaches technology and technological paradigms. Uniface is a technology partner for our customers and partners. As such, we take pride in actively participating in the technological world around us, which should add value to our customers. It also reinforces our relationship with technology resulting in the Uniface direction. Additionally, and with the intention of being transparent, we blog about it.

I want to start by making an analogy between Uniface and Formula 1 (F1 Championships). In F1 racing there are also a lot of technological developments on which all car manufacturers and teams rely on (powertrains, ERS, ES, power units, tire compound, telemetry, DRS, KERS, chassis, etc.). Actually all of the participants follow the evolution of these developments actively or passively depending on their area of expertise (additionally sanctioned by the FIA).

It is the same in our application development world, there is a lot of technology involved and we do actively follow it. Essential to that and following the Uniface value proposition, we need to be up to par with the latest trends in what applications need from technology.

Following our analogy, the Uniface car might today have a power unit from Mercedes, while we simultaneously look at the power units from Ferrari and Renault.

The Lab and the engineers look at all technologies and we make sure that the leading edge in technology is used by the car we build (Uniface) because that is what makes us different. Product Management makes sure that our customer requirements plus the technology innovations are included in the Uniface portfolio.

I think that all of the above confirms to our customers the value Uniface provides is much more than one mere technology, but they can be confident we are looking at a much broader spectrum of the application technology stack.

Rest assured that the direction that Uniface takes will be defined and determined by Product Management and reflected in the Uniface roadmap.

 

If innovation is so important, why isn’t everyone doing it? 

So why isn’t everyone innovating? Sometimes people simply get too comfortable with the status quo to try something new. Think how many users were reluctant to move from Windows 7, which admittedly let them do their job fine, to Windows 8, which some considered less perfect. But, once they were through the Windows 7/8 mourning curve, it was easy to change to Windows 10, with very quick emotional acceptance and significant benefits.

Another major reason for not innovating is that people have more pressing things to do, and this is no doubt true. Throughout life, we often hear phrases like: “I’m too busy,” “I’ve got higher priorities,” and “We have to clear the backlog.” Within the IT function, some technical teams are big enough only to keep up with day-to-day maintenance, leaving no scope to craft new solutions or modernize legacy applications. Large organizations may also find they spend too much time and resources “keeping the lights on,” with little left for innovation.

Innovation

A Catch 22 situation then arises, because by not moving forward, it becomes harder to deliver. This can lead to a failure to give the organization the business agility it needs.

Another reason for failure to innovate at the right pace, is that for many organizations, it’s difficult to make innovation work. As discussed in a recent article by Anderee Berengian, the innovation lab model has often failed. I’m going to elaborate on Berengian’s conclusion that “real innovation comes from outside your company,” as although that may be true for some, for the rest of us there is an alternative.

In my first blog post I addressed the question: What comes first—innovation or agility? In my next post I will look at 3 approaches to innovation for organizations.

This series is based on the paper: Agility and Innovation in Application and Mobile Development.  

You can download the paper here.

Red Hat/OpenShift – Finding the silver lining

I have been in the Uniface business for longer than twenty years. I have experienced the GUI baby steps of Uniface 6 at around the same time Windows 95 saw the light. I could keep up with the new features that were presented with each new version of Uniface that was released. So, with regards to Uniface, I can proudly say that although I may look like a monkey, I am an old monkey. I know a lot of tricks.

The world is changing at a fast pace and it is necessary to keep my bag of tricks up to date. With Uniface moving into the direction of supporting cloud features, I feel that it is necessary to do a bit of homework to prepare myself for this mind shift.

As a first step, I joined a few colleagues at the Red Hat Openshift Roadshow that was held in Amsterdam. With many similar cloud-technology related events currently taking place and with Uniface being so strong in supporting multiple platforms, it seemed like a good idea to search for the silver lining at the Red Hat event.

Red Hat Cloud Blog

Why Red Hat?

Red Hat is just one of multiple platforms that Uniface supports. It is a leading enterprise Linux platform. It is supported on both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. These two providers are currently the preferred providers for Uniface cloud support. In addition, it is also open, reliable, secure and flexible for customers who have business-critical systems.

How does Red Hat align with the goal of supporting multiple platforms for Uniface?

At Uniface we are not in the business of putting one platform in front of the other. We want the client to make the decisions around the technologies that are going to be used and we want to fit into it. Red Hat is just one of the platforms that we as well as the cloud providers do support. What makes us strong, is the fact that we can confirm that Red Hat is one of the many platforms that are on our list that we can tick off.

What benefits does this bring?

As a result of our work, we now have the infrastructure in place to verify and test Uniface on cloud platforms, therefore enabling us to tick the box that Uniface is supported.  This means customers do not need to make changes to their application source code, because, we can deploy to Red Hat as well as other platforms in the cloud in the same way as if they were deploying to on premise operating systems.

What is OpenShift?

Before we understand what OpenShift is, we first need to understand a few other terms (in short of course).

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

When a provider runs computers on demand with specified configurations. This is alternative to rack and stack hardware. You specify the amount of RAM, CPU, disk space and operating system and the provider starts up a machine that meets these specifications within minutes.

  • Software as a Service (SaaS)

Requires zero or very little maintenance or setup. You just sign up for a cloud based service and it is available for you to use. A simple example of SaaS is Gmail.

  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)

This falls between IaaS and SaaS. Currently it is targeted at application developers. With PaaS, all the necessary pieces of your application are spinned on a server up from either the command line or a web interface. These pieces can be applications and databases.

This is where OpenShift starts to play a role. OpenShift provides the command line/web interface for the developer to spin up everything. From one command, all the necessary networking and server installs are done and a Git repository is created. OpenShift administrators will update the operating system, manage the network and do other admin work so that the developer can focus on writing code. The interface also allows the user to scale his application and do some performance tuning.

What does this mean for Uniface?

The strategy of Uniface has always been to support multiple platforms/databases etc. Internally, we are currently using Ansible as part of our build processes rather than OpenShift, but we are always investigating new ways to improve our processes and we try not to focus on specific technologies or tools. Therefore, from a DevOps point of view, I do see that OpenShift could play a part for us.

By making use of Infrastructure as Code, we can spin up multiple processes in the cloud to assist us in our build and verification processes. In our case, our application(s) are our tests, and we can now run them in parallel. We are also able to research new platforms without making investments in new physical infrastructure. This is a micro services approach which is the magic of the cloud.

I see OpenShift as a possible tool that can be used by our users. It is very powerful and useful and could be used to deploy applications into cloud environments, and to scale or contract as required.

Every cloud has a silver lining. The new silver lining is the fact that the cloud opens up so many restrictions. With new tools released every day, it is important to stay informed so that we can also be as open minded as the cloud.

What Is Digital Transformation?

Over the last five years or so, there’s been a lot of talk on the topic of “digital transformation.”

However, there hasn’t been a generally accepted definition of what that term means, exactly. What is digital transformation? What does it mean for my organization?

At Uniface, we embarked on a research project with Creative Intellect Consulting, Ltd. (CIC) and at the outset, put forward a definition that technology professionals and business leaders could agree upon. For the project, CIC presented the following working definition of “digital transformation” to 300 survey respondents, representing enterprise organizations, value-added resellers (VAR) and independent software vendors (ISV):

Digital transformation is “the transformation of business activities, processes, competencies and models, to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across the organization, in a strategic and prioritized way.”

Ninety-seven percent of the 300 respondents agreed with the definition; 3% thought either they weren’t qualified to weigh in on a definition or wanted the definition to be a bit broader and not so focused on technology.

What’s key in the presented definition is to notice where the responsibility of such a shift lays. The burden to ensure digital transformation within an organization does not only belong to the IT and technology teams; rather, digital transformation is a strategic responsibility shared by business leadership and IT.

With that in mind, a successful digital transformation undertaking will span both IT and business leaders and should include:

  • End-to-end technology solutions that support speed and integration;
  • A systemic change that’s built with new technologies with existing systems and knowledge, but supports the new digital business;
  • A wider group of professionals spanning departments who can work together to build and deliver an organization’s digital transformation roll-out;
  • An ability to quickly develop and deploy increasingly complex applications.

Why does all this matter? Why is it important for organizations to embrace the digital transformation movement?

In a word: relevance.

In order to survive – and continue to thrive – organizations must begin to think strategically about how to marry technology and business goals. An organization’s ability to be innovative, foresee change, focus on what their customers want – and anticipate those wants — will certainly be positioned to succeed well into the future.

Now that we have a well-defined idea of what digital transformation means, we are better able to begin thinking about the strategic needs of our business and determine how IT can help to implement necessary changes. The health of the organization, its people and its clients depend on it.

What comes first: innovation or agility?

The question of why innovation and business agility are vital –and independent is one that is top of mind for many organizations.

Business agility is essential to survival. With economic uncertainty everywhere, and disruption in many marketplaces, businesses need to respond fast to change. A key enabler for this ability is an IT function that is inherently good at innovating. IT must produce ingenious ideas that will facilitate the required fast business response, for example by equipping the workforce for mobile working. There are any number of innovative uses of mobile technology: for example, a sales person can take and personalize an order while walking around a shop with a customer; a doctor can receive real-time information about a patient’s vital signs.

IT innovation is essential to business agility. However, you also need agility before you can innovate in IT or anywhere else. Which comes first is hard to judge. Organizations tend to start life with both agility and innovation. However, as they get bigger, their agility tends to become constrained for various reasons. Hence their rate of innovation declines, creating a vicious circle.

Innovation and agility

Complex though the relationship between innovation and agility is, we can probably agree that both are vital to a healthy business, and particularly vital when a business is contemplating digital transformation (where the organization rethinks aspects of its existence to take full advantage of digital technology, rather than simply automate the existing way of working). Digital transformation implies that a business must be able to innovate digitally to overtake the competition, with enough agility to reshape itself around the resultant landscape. An agile IT department has the ability and opportunity to create what the business needs – or else to go out and find it fast.

This blog post is the first in a series based on the paper: Agility and Innovation in Application and Mobile Development.

You can download the paper here.