Stories by Jon Udell

Rise of open infrastructure

When entrepreneurs pitch their software-as-a-service ideas to me, I always ask how they plan to compete with what I call the galactic clusters -- Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. These giants have set a high bar for Internet-scale operations, and they're relentlessly pushing it higher.

Evolving WinFS still needs to embrace the Web

I was one of the lucky souls who saw the only public demonstration of Microsoft's object-oriented file system, code-named Cairo, at the 1993 Professional Developers Conference. A decade later, in a column entitled "A Tale of Two Cairos, I reflected on Cairo's historical context and the modern context into which its successor, WinFS, would emerge -- which was, of course, the Web. Here's what I said three years ago:

Microsoft .Net update

Twenty-eight months since my last report on Microsoft's .Net technology suite, it's interesting to see what's changed and what hasn't. The desktop version of the Longhorn OS was renamed Vista, but its release status remains the same: beta. Of the three .Net-oriented "pillars of Longhorn" -- Avalon, Indigo, and WinFS -- two are renamed (Avalon to Windows Presentation Foundation and Indigo to Windows Communication Foundation) but none have shipped, and WinFS has been pushed post-Vista.

Open source education

Graham Glass wrote a blog entry this week that touched on two of my favorite themes: open source and education. In the middle of a project based on the red-hot Ruby on Rails platform, he took time out to explain how he found, and worked around, a Rails limitation. Digging down to the roots of the problem took six hours of investigation. Crafting the work-around took just six lines of code.

Reinventing the Intranet

Ad hoc social software will probably flourish in the enterprise. Is this the next-generation intranet? If so, we should sort out what we got wrong on the first try, and what we'll get right this time around.

Building SOA your way

A fault line runs beneath the groundswell that began a few years ago with XML Web services and continues today as SOA (service-oriented architecture). True, nearly everyone agrees that XML messaging is the right way to implement low-level, platform-agnostic services that can be composed into higher-level services that support enterprises business functions. Yet, here's also a sense that the standards process has run amok.
IBM, Microsoft, and others have proposed so many Web services standards that a new collective noun had to be invented: WS-* (pronounced "WS star" or sometimes "WS splat"). The asterisk is a wild card that can stand for Addressing, Eventing, Policy, Routing, Reliability, ReliableMessaging, SecureConversation, Security, Transactions, Trust, and a frighteningly long list of other terms. Surveying this landscape, XML co-creator Tim Bray pronounced the WS-* stack "bloated, opaque, and insanely complex."

Gates on new directions at Microsoft

After a morning of keynote speeches at Microsoft's PDC (Professional Developers Conference) in Los Angeles, InfoWorld's Lead Technology Analyst Jon Udell sat down with Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates for a one-on-one interview.

Conventional software vs. software as a service

When Peter Yared, CEO and founder of LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl/PHP/Python) middleware startup ActiveGrid, realized he needed project management software to coordinate his company's development work, he tried Microsoft Project 2003.

Software's common DNA

Here are five species of application that seem, at first glance, to have little in common: mainframe "green screen," Win32/VB, Java/Swing, Web browser, and .Net WinForms. An enterprise application portfolio is likely to include members of each of these species. Nobody chooses this diversity; it just happens, and it complicates everything from development and deployment to maintenance and testing.

Opinion: Paving the information footpaths

I'm sure there are dozens of versions of this story, but I heard it from Larry Wall, the father of Perl, and it goes like this: instead of laying down paved walkways, the builders of a new university campus waited for footpaths to emerge on the lawns. Then they paved the footpaths. Larry designed Perl around this idea of structure emerging from use, but that was an unusual case. We typically lay down the paving stones first, and when footpaths emerge we profess surprise or try to ignore them.

What TimeDance got right

Most of the meetings I schedule cross organizational borders and doing so is always a painful process. Everyone feels the same pain to one degree or another and has felt it for years. Ad-hoc collaboration across borders is at the core of the agile enterprise's mission, but we still lack the tools to do it easily and effectively.

Separating code from its environment

Programming languages and environments are an abiding passion of mine. I'm always on the lookout for a better mousetrap, and lately I've been working with three relative newcomers: the PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor)-based plug-in architecture of the WordPress blogging engine; the Ruby on Rails framework; and Mark Logic's XQuery-based Content Interaction Server.

When time-shifting and telepresence collide

Recently I drove to a meeting in another state. On the way there and back, my car radio was tuned to no regular broadcast but instead to the pirate radio station in my briefcase. Its components: a US$20 Belkin FM transmitter, a US$90 Creative Nomad MuVo MP3 player, and do-it-yourself programming. As I drove to my destination, I listened to Shai Agassi's talk at the Accelerating Change Conference, courtesy of On the way back, I listened to an audio interview I'd done the day before, reviewing which parts I might want to use in a podcast or weave into an article.

Management by objects

I recently wrote about MSH ("monad"), Microsoft's new command shell, and demonstrated the software on my blog. The column-plus-demo drew favorable reactions not only from the Windows crowd, but also from Unix/Linux folk who saw the MSH object pipeline as a genuine innovation. They're right.

2004: Better quality through software

SOA (service-oriented architecture) edged out Web services in 2004 as the preferred label for decentralized systems woven together by the exchange of XML messages. Whatever you call this approach to application development, it presents new challenges in terms of quality control. As applications extend beyond the enterprise to include partner services, it becomes crucial to monitor and debug your interaction with those services.