Monday, January 27, 2014

Mockup tools for agile development

For all good reasons a more agile way of development is often selected when creating a new solution. Please do note, I am not a believer of agile being the silver bullet to all development work, I do feel that the more traditional way of development is in some cases much better then an agile way of doing things. However, agile development is in some cases great and one of the things that is also great within the agile development way of doing things is the fact you will be working very close to the customer / end-user. I have learned that while doing agile development with a end-user sitting next to you it can be very beneficial to be able to draw up quickly something. The art of creating a very quick prototype in the form of a mockup / wireframe drawing can make things really quickly clear to all parties involved.

Now, the things is, what  to select as a tool for doing things like this? When you start searching the internet for tools like this there is a large variety of things you can select from. Some of them I have tested and used in projects both for Capgemini as well as private and opensource projects. Below are some that you might want to give a look.


Keynotopia is essentially an extension on your favorite applications you already have on your workstation and build a design with it quickly. You can add Keynotopia to Microsoft Powerpoint, Apple Keynote or OpenOffice. The great thing about Keynotopia is that you can safe the design you made as a clickable PDF and due to the fact all images are vector images it will scale to your devive and give the person who is testing your design the idea that it is really an application. Best of all, it is free and you can download it from the Keynotopia website. 


Balsamiq is actually the first tool of this kind I used ever. Primary reason for me to use balsamiq was that it was, at that moment, the only tool that was available for Linux and which did the job I wanted. One of the cool things about balsamiq is that it uses an "art style" that clearly shows that it is a prototype / mockup. You do not have to explain to anyone that this is just a quick thought drawing you are working on and that the product itself is not available yet. is an online alternative for those who are always on the move. When you are shifting a lot between workstations and you do need a solution to do your wireframe and mockup work this can be a very good alternative. This is however a payed service while you have some great free alternatives that you need to install on your workstation. Sharing between workstations is always an option with for example dropbox or Google Drive.

Pencil project

Pencil project is a great, and above all, open-source project which has the big benefit that it is availabel for ALL platforms. This is especially great when you are working in a team where some are using Linux, some Mac OS and some still do tend to stay with Microsoft. As Pencil can be downloaded at no costs you can have a quick adoption witthin a team and start working all on the same wireframe / mockup designs.

Microsoft Sketchflow

Microsoft Sketchflow is most likly one the most expensive alternatives in this list, it is part of Blend 3 and is inlcuded within Microsoft Expression Studio 3. Sketchflow is very usable when developing primarily Microsoft based solutions as it ties directly into the Microsoft development tools and is, apperently, very easy to go from first design to a first raw GUI in your development tooling. This is a very big advantages however, as stated, it is primarily focused on Microsoft driven solutions and not leaving to much room for others.

Eclipse based tools

without any doubt Eclipse is one of the most favorite development environments. Originally intended for Java developers it is now growing to all kinds of programming languages. The big benefit of Eclipse is that it is open-source and that there is a very large community of individuals and enterprises who add functionality to Eclipse. Functoinality is added in the form of plugins so you can expand you development environment and options in eclipse as you go. Included are a number of wireframe and mockup tools. The one that stands out the most is WireframeSketcher which can be downloaded from the website.

The above outline is not to select the best tool, there is not such a thing as THE best tool as this is depending on a number of factors, for example the type of applications your are developing, the adoption within your team, the tools you are already using and so on. However, the above list is to outline and state that there are numerous tools available that can make your life easy and can help you while doing rapid prototyping and agile development work. Best thing of all, the number of free and open-source tools is also very wide and available to you. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Oracle VM and OpenSCAP

With the release of Oracle VM Server 3.2.7 Oracle has started to ship oracle VM now also with OpenSCAP. OpenSCAP was already shipping with Oracle Linux and Oracle Solaris and is now also included in the Oracle VM server distributions. This is good news for all companies who do use Oracle VM and do have a need to tighten security.

"The Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP) is a method for using specific standards to enable automated vulnerability management, measurement, and policy compliance evaluation (e.g., FISMA compliance). The National Vulnerability Database (NVD) is the U.S. government content repository for SCAP."

By adding the OpenSCAP implementation to Oracle VM server companies can now use the same tooling for checking against know vulnerabilities on your systems. This also makes it more easy to create a more enterprise wide approach to security checking and benchmark testing for all systems. You can now directly check your Oracle VM server installation against the SCAP messages containing CVE information.

Friday, January 17, 2014

IT maturity models to be used in continues updated roadmaps

Technology is becoming more and more one of the main supporting assets of a business. Where we could state a couple of decades ago that technology was providing a useful hand in doing the daily operations it is now one of the main assets that is driving most companies. When technology fails or is not able to or designed to provide the correct level of services to the business this has an immediate impact on operations and the survivability of companies. Due to this it becomes more and more of a vital importance that companies will look critically at what they expect from technology, how it fits in the business goals and how it will support the organization now and in the future.

To ensure that an organization knows where it is, where it needs to be heading and if it has the capabilities currently to go from where they are to where they should be or will most likely need to be in the foreseeable future it is advisable to have a moving roadmap. A moving roadmap is a continuously updated IT strategy which holds a continues self assessment and future assessment. Within this moving roadmap the steps needed to ensure services will be at levels the organization needs them to be and to ensure that the company will be keeping up with trends in the market. This is not the IT market however the market segment where the company operates in and where technological advantages and improvements can be used to keep up with the changes in the business market segment.

To be able to create a roadmap it is of importance to know where you are right now and where you need to be heading. A number of components are of importance in such a self assessment. One of those is to ensure you have a clear view on the maturity of your IT organization at this moment and at a later stage how mature your IT organization needs to be to support and keep supporting the business organization.  Oracle has, as part of their IT strategies library, created a framework for maturity models. The direct intention is not purely to be used within a strategic continues updated roadmap however it can very well be used in such a roadmap.

Oracle uses the maturity model to help customers understand and create an ETS or Enterprise Technology Strategy. The ETS line of thinking is used for major changes in relation to the implementation and adoption of new or updated technology. The Oracle statement on ETS in relation to the Oracle proposed maturity model is the following:

In order to successfully execute an ETS, an organization must identify the needed capabilities required by that ETS and measure their organization’s proficiency in each of these essential capabilities. This is the genesis for the generic Maturity Model.

The basis of the Enterprise Technology Strategy related maturity model Oracle is using the below model.

The model is based upon both areas which are categorized based upon the organizational disciplines as well as the technology that dominates an area. The organizational disciplines which are defined in this model are; “Business & Strategy”, ”Organization”, “Governance and Project” and “Projects, Portfolios & Services”. The technology dominated areas are; “Architecture”, “Infrastructure”, “information” and “Operations, Administration & Management”.

Within the Oracle maturity model framework Oracle has given the following meaning to the specific area’s;

Business & Strategy
Contains capabilities that provide the high-level constructs that allow the Enterprise Technology Strategy initiative to proceed. This includes such things as business motivation, expected benefits, guiding principles, expected costs, funding model, etc.

Contains capabilities concerning the development of corporate competency around Enterprise Technology Strategy including the organizational structure and skills development.

Contains capabilities concerning the governance structures and processes that support and guide the Enterprise Technology Strategy efforts. Maturity and adoption of an adequate amount of governance is a leading indicator of the overall Enterprise Technology Strategy success.

Projects, Portfolios & Services
Contains capabilities concerning the planning (portfolio management) and building (engineering) of applications and services that are part of the Enterprise Technology Strategy initiative.

Operations, Administration & Management
Contains capabilities concerning the post deployment aspects of solutions based on the Enterprise Technology Strategy i.e. the Operations, Administration, and Management aspects of the Enterprise Technology Strategy.

Contains capabilities concerning the information aspects of the Enterprise Technology Strategy. This includes shared data models, message formats and schemas, data ownership, data management, content management, etc.

Contains capabilities concerning the infrastructure and tools that provide the technical foundation for the Enterprise Technology Strategy initiative.

Contains capabilities concerning the definitions of the overall architecture and guidelines for various practitioners to ensure adherence to the architecture.

As can be seen from the above descriptions of the areas in the maturity model this is a model that is originally created and still dominated from an Enterprise Technology Strategy point of thinking. However, the model itself is very much usable for other self assessment tasks. The areas that have been selected by Oracle are giving a real good representation on a number of key area’s. The difficulty during every initial setup of a maturity model is which key performance indicators will you be including in the main area’s.

For example, if we take the architecture area it states as a description “Contains capabilities concerning the definitions of the overall architecture and guidelines for various practitioners to ensure adherence to the architecture”. The challenging task when building a maturity model is to find the sub parts which will cover this description in measurable KPI’s and giving each KPI a certain weight. When given the appropriate level of thought and the appropriate level of attention throughout the organization the maturity model can become a very valuable tool to be used in ensuring you know where your IT organisation is at this moment and where it needs to be in the future to keep providing the necessary services to the business when they need it.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Indoor navigation with the Apple iBeacon framework

Already for a long time companies are trying to tackle the issue of indoor navigation. Already in 2011 I wrote a short post about the upcoming market of indoor navigation and what the people at Nokia research lab where doing is this area. Unfortunately, even though a lot of people do see a market potential in this, there is not much to report in this field and not many really adopted products or protocols have been developed by the industry. Now a new attempt to tackle the issue of indoor navigation is coming into play.

with the release of Apple IOS 7 and the software development kit Apple has introduced the option to the development community to make use of BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy.

"The iBeacon works on Low Energy Bluetooth (BLE), also known as Bluetooth 4.0 or Bluetooth Smart. In a real life scenario it would be more of a location-aware, context-aware, pervasive small wireless sensor beacon that could pinpoint your location in a store: iBeacons could send you notifications of items around you that are on sale or items you may be looking for, and it could enable payments at the point of sale (POS) where you don’t need to remove your wallet or card to make a payment. It could be a possible Near Field Communication (NFC) competitor."

Even though this technology is thought to be a pure Apple technology by some people this is a wrong assumption. iBeacons can be pruchased from a number of companies who develop them and all comply to the same standards. iBeacon is nothing more then a framework where some hardware vendors are developing the hardware beacons for. The most known developer of beacons is estimote however beacons are developed by for for example roximity.

An explanatory video from Estimote can be seen here;

The options of what can be done with the iBeacon solutions are numerous. In the above video some examples are mentioned. For example personalized prizing of items in a store which might differ from person to person based upon their membership of the stores loyalty program. Also an option is to show the number of likes for a product and product reviews.

However a large number of other options and solutions that can be created are possible, think for example indoor navigation on an airfield where someone is directed to the lounge or gate where this person should be. Also a personal plan for someone visiting an exhibition, some exhibitions can be extremely large and navigating the floors and be able to see all the vendors and conference speeches can be extremely difficult.

If you take for example the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference in the Moscone center in San Fransisco. It consists out of a number of exhibition floors with a large number of vendors and also it is a conference with a extreme large number of speeches. Getting from conference room to conference room and not missing anything can be hard. Currently visitors can select a track and they are guided and helped by a program. Adding to this program an APP that will help you get to the correct room on time and help you, for example, keep track of where all your colleagues are so you can meet up for coffee between talks would be a great addition. Oracle OpenWorld is just an example and a indoor navigation framework could be offered by the conference center owners as a service to the conference that is using their location.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Understanding the Oracle Communications product portfolio

A little less then a year ago Oracle completed the purchase of Acme Packet. "Acme Packet enables trusted, first-class delivery of next-generation voice, data and unified communications services and applications across IP networks for service providers and enterprises. The company's solutions are deployed by more than 1,900 service providers and enterprises globally, including 89 of world's top 100 communications companies".

By purchasing ACME Packet Oracle has extended its product portfolio extensively and create the Oracle Communications product group. The current Oracle Communications product group is shown below in overview diagram;

The current naming of the products within the Oracle Communications product group can be a bit strange for people who are used to the original naming used by ACME Packet. For them, and for people working with Oracle Communications products it can be good to have some understanding of how Oracle has grouped products in the product group and sub product groups.

In general Oracle Communications is buildup out of 4 main product groups, Hardware, Network Session Delivery and Control Infrastructure, Enterprise Communications and Network Visibility and Resource Management. The last product group, the Network Visibility and Resource Management group is divided in two separate sub groups; Oracle Communications Session Delivery Manager and Oracle Communications Session Monitor.

When looking at the Oracle Communications website the total reach of the product portfolio is a lot bigger then what you can see above and the full integration possibilities become clear. By combining the products from "pure" Oracle Communication and combining them with other products from Oracle you can build a near red-stack solution for your entire communication delivery within your enterprise or have it as your core business to end-users outside of your company.

It is a shame that this part of Oracle is overlooked and it is especially a shame that it is overlooked by a lot of the integration and solution architects who design software solutions and commonly stop where direct communication is needed between humans and we leave the computer-to-computer communication.