Thursday, May 31, 2012

Leveraging IBM Rational to Manage your WebSphere Environment

We’re gearing up for another exciting Innovate 2012 conference in Orlando this year, having just come back from presenting at the IBM Impact conference in Las Vegas. The great thing about these conferences is they give Prolifics the opportunity to share stories and lessons learned with customers old and new – and lets us bring a number of our customers together so they can swap ideas amongst themselves.

Over the last year, since Innovate 2011 conference, Prolifics has helped a number of our WebSphere customers improve their configuration and release management processes through a combination of good practices and IBM Rational tooling. We’ve seen weaknesses in these areas be a major drag on otherwise technically sound development projects – and helping both our own as well as our customers’ teams improve in these areas has been a top priority of my own practice within Prolifics.

In addition to sharing our experiences at IBM Innovate, I am introducing them in this Prolifics whitepaper as well: Leveraging IBM Rational to Manage your WebSphere Environment.

To learn more about my upcoming speaking session at IBM Innovate and Prolifics’ presence at the conference, click here.


Gregory Hodgkinson is the Rational Practice Director at Prolifics ( Previous to that he was a Founder, Director, and the SOA Lead at 7irene, a visionary software solutions company in the United Kingdom. He has 16 years of experience in software architecture , initially specializing in the field of component-based development (CBD), then moving seamlessly into service-oriented architecture (SOA). His extended area of expertise is the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), and he assists Prolifics and IBM customers in adopting agile development processes and SOA methods. He is still very much a practitioner, and has been responsible for service architectures for a number of FTSE 100 companies. He presents on agile SOA process and methods at both IBM (Rational and WebSphere) and other events, has also co-authored a Redbook on SOA solutions, and contributes to DeveloperWorks.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Importance of a Focused Mobile Strategy

For the past few years I have been speaking in several conferences about social and mobile solutions for organization for different industry verticals and I am surprised that I still get asked this question. “Does our organization need a dedicated and focused mobile strategy?” I have 2 words. Yes, Yes and Yes. Oh wait that’s 3!

Here is a sampling of stats:
1 billion of the world’s 4+ billion mobiles phones are now Smart Phones
Over 85% of new handsets will have Web access

Usage - What are mobile users doing:
95% send or receive text messages
65% access the internet on their mobile device
48% have accessed a social networking site on their phone
20% have purchased something or charitable donation their mobile phones

Social Impact
Over 1/3 of Facebook’s 600million + user base uses Facebook Mobile
Twitter has 165million users and 50% of them us Twitter Mobile
A whopping 200million + Youtube views occur on mobile devices per day
Not my research!! Women aged 35 - 54 are the most active group in mobile socialization

Traditionally we are used to accessing information via desktop and mobile web browser (more like WAP)

Then came the wonder of Apps. The app revolution got developers to build native apps using C# or objective C or vendor approved programming language.

But the tide is really riding on the app revolution where the next generation of apps are a combination of apps called Hybrid apps. Which is a combination of native code and open html framework.

The different kinds of apps presented great opportunity to exploit the ways developers can present their data. But it also presented a significant challenge. The need for a common toolset, which can provide a platform to develop these mobile apps and an overall strategy. Q1 2012 IBM acquired Worklight to enhance their mobile arsenal. Worklight, offers an open platform that helps speed the delivery of existing and new mobile applications to multiple devices. Essentially it gives a great platform to develop all service level mobile applications.

I wont go in details of the product but here is a quick overview of IBM Worklight

Worklight and iPad
While working for our customers on the mobile app development using the Worklight, a colleague of mine (@VishSinha) had to create to have Split view layout for tablets specifically iPad. There are several ways to achieve it but the need was to create a unified User Experience that is seamless if accessed via non-tablet devices. So he decided to use jquery mobile Split view plugin for IBM Worklight, to achieve the split view look and feel for iPad version of app. Here is a quick approach to it.

Two Panel Split View Layout
To build a two-panel layout, called menu (left navigational links) and main (contents) panels for iPad, there are two divs inside the body tag of the main App.html page. Menu div panel is mainly responsible for handling all the navigation links on the left hand side and main div panel is mainly for rendering/loading the contents on the right side of the screen once user clicks on the left side navigational links.

Here is a preview of the Prolifics homepage of the iPad Split View:

The HTML code for the menu div panel looks like this:

The point being, everyone knows mobility is very important but it is almost imperative to use a platform for development of mobile devices that can scalable and can support multiple formats of mobile applications.


Niral Jhaveri is the VP of User Experience at Prolifics and has extensive expertise in the IBM Lotus, WebSphere and Rational family of products. He has played a key role at several strategic clients by providing technical leadership. Niral has an extensive background in the design and development of IBM WebSphere Portal, SOA and Web 2.0 applications with a proven track record of consulting and architecting solutions for several industry verticals like Finance, Retail, Insurance and Technology.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Why Every Organization Needs Its Own Permalink Service

I would recommend to any organization that they create and use their own URL bookmarking service. The benefits of creating and using such a service are many. The most compelling force is that you can create permanent URL's that have no dependency on a particular website version, technology, changes to taxonomy, changes in branding (assuming the URL service remains intact), and the ability to create multiple URL's to the same hypermedia, create vanity URL's, and many many more interesting uses.

Myself being a long time WebSphere Portal guy you might ask; "well isn't the IBM portal's URL mapping and friendly URL services exactly what you're talking about." To that my answer would be; 'Yes, They overlap, but the forces are different.' One of the objectives of such a URL is to remain technology independent and avoid any vendor locking. If you've ever done a major Portal upgrade project or even better a migration from another Portal product you'll quickly realize that you have a big problem whenever asked to maintain inbound links to the old technology or site.

The solution to this challenge is not entirely to use a link service and I won't go into details around what else needs to be done. The basics are that some links "you" company "X" control and others you can't control. The links and bookmarks that you control is the focus of this recommendation. The links you don't control have a laundry list in a project plan:
  • communicate with search engines to get re-indexed quickly after launch
  • contact partners and use site analytics to determine who is linking to you
  • develop a 404 strategy
  • use mod_rewrite or your content router rules
  • continue to evaluate misses on dead links in web analysis reports
  • eventually cut-loose and let the dead links die
So let's focus on the link you do control. The first step is to develop this service. Having done this for a large customer with site of 7 million registered users here are some features to consider:
  • URL shortening
  • Vanity URLs in paths
  • Meaningful terms in the URL
  • a rules engine! (Surprising, but with that you can enforce logic based routing of links, start and expiration times, etc)
  • A must is a nice administrative user interface for creating the link and pointing to the destination
The next and most critical step is to get every communication leaving the organization (and within the organization) using this new service. When marketing sends a link out, believe me you want that link to go to this new service. An aside - years ago I had a customer send an incorrect link out to The WSJ, NY Times and just about every other major news agency about the fantastic site redesign of their public website. It was embarrassing to the company and horrible for I.T. department since they did not have any technical failure in the launch. The URL sent out didn't exist! Had this tool existed for them it would have resolved the issue. You can always change the destination that your link service URL points to. The biggest challenge is getting the organization tuned in to using this new way of linking to the organizations web pages. Many social media and blog sites do a nice job of this by providing a part of the management inline in the pages that can be linked to (e.g. "Link to the Page" icons.) Emails sent out to customers are another big source of dead links whenever a site is overhauled - so update those systems that are generating the emails.

Wikipedia References to Related Concepts:

WebSphere and Portal SSL Termination Consideration

Francis recently ran into some issues in an environment with SSL termination at the F5 BigIP content routers. Initially, I thought his issue had to do with how the URL's that had been put into forms and content by the developers for his project. I later realized the issue after he sent me this link:

It makes perfect sense now. The application server receives requests and determines if the request came in on a secure port (SSL / HTTPS.) This is important in two ways; first the Servlet API and second the Portal's URL generation. The Servlet API has the ServletRequest#isSecure method as well as the ServletRequest#getScheme method. The application servers behind SSL termination points see this as being non-encrypted traffic. Next, Portal URL generation causes an issue since it generates URL for themes and Portlets using this information. When URL's are generated in their full form (absolute URL's) they are generated for non-secure (http) traffic.

One way to try to mitigate the issue is to change the Portal settings in the State Service to use relative URL's. # enables or disables the generation of relative URLs by default if URLs are generated # from tags # this setting can be overridden on a per-tag basis # # Default: false = false The solution presented in the Technote should be applied in any event since there may be circumstances where relative URL's are either undesirable or not feasible. One setting in the WebSphere Portal asks for traffic to be redirected to secure transport and without the above issues would still occur.

Applying both changes may be the best solution however usage scenarios vary so... test.

Tim Reilly is a Technology Manager with Prolifics. He has led the implementation of many global projects using IBM WebSphere Portal and has extensive background in design and development of enterprise portals. He specializes in providing Enterprise J2EE and Portal solutions leveraging WebSphere Portal, Content Management, Tivoli and 3rd party integrations. He has over 9 years of experience with Websphere Portal and is a former Apache Software Foundation committer.