Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

Java Developer's Journal: 'To Dwell in the Future and Forget About Today'

Some of the words I dread most in a meeting are: 'What if ?'

Some of the words I dread most in a meeting are: "What if ?" They're fine in the present tense of "What if a user tries this option?" or "What if the database read fails mid flight?", but as soon as the future tense is introduced I begin to worry. "What if the database and middleware changes?" or "What if sometime soon we don't just have to run on PCs but need to work on mobile phones?" There is also the future future tense such as "What happens to the UI if the operating system is ported to run on a wrist watch?" or "What if one day the company merges with another whose corporate standard is MAC and SNA?"

My first IT job was building computer systems for Insurance Syndicates to allow them to manage their policies, collect premiums, and pay out claims to the less fortunate of their clients. It's a difficult business arena, with companies either losing or making a ton of money; our job was to provide them with systems to help stack the odds in favor of the latter. As well as supporting an existing 10-year-old application, we were all busy working on the next one, which was an entire rewrite. It suffered from all of the second-system syndrome features that usually plague such projects, where every feature, bell, and whistle that didn't get put into the first one gets incorporated.

What ultimately plagued and doomed the project was the "what if" over-engineering that went into its design. The business analysts tried to soothsay every possible scenario that would occur in the future, including some that would have required wholesale deregulation of the market and acts of parliament before they could ever become reality. Such schemes were happily programmed in with the foresight that if they were needed, a soft-coded switch could be thrown and the application would adapt itself in flight. Database rows had unused columns that, at the throw of a switch, would be activated onto users' screens and reports. The reality, of course, was that none of the scenarios that the analysts predicted ever occurred, and the amount of additional soft coding and layers of abstraction meant the software was slow and bulky. We lost almost all our market share to the competition, which just built lean, focused software. Even when big changes did occur to the market, such as the introduction of the Euro as an accounting currency, this required huge changes to the application because it naturally wasn't one of the future scenarios that had been predicted.

It's not just analysts who suffer from "whatifitis" syndrome. Programmers are just as guilty of using this as the excuse to over-engineer designs and code. The first OO project I worked on had to talk to a relational database back end, and we set about tackling this by creating code that could read and write our business objects. After a while it became apparent that the same logic was being used over and over, so this was refactored into a common set of class libraries, and behold a persistence mapping framework was born. Management got very excited about this, believing we'd built some kind of IT Rosetta stone, and talked to our software vendor who brought in some consultants. They raised the possibility that the database tables beneath our objects might change shape and we had to code for that possibility, as well as the possibility that our company might merge with another with a totally different database vendor and schema, and we should cater for that. There was a lot of buzz at the time about OO databases that just stored objects right onto disk without messy rows and tables, so to be ahead of the game our persistence layer catered to this. More and more layers of indirection were built into the code that now sat between the top-level objects and the database reads and writes. This, by now, had become soft coded to look up in dictionaries and maps to figure out what it was actually supposed to be doing at each decision point. This was a cool idea that would allow a system administrator to merely tweak the soft-coded rules and introduce wholesale change to how and where the beautiful and pure OO system would get and put its data. The system never actually shipped, because after having spent about three years building it, when the company did actually merge with another they decided it was silly to spend so much on our project; they would rather spend time patching the existing system to deal with the challenges resulting from the merger.

I'm fortunate enough now to work for a major IT vendor, yet during a recent presentation was given a reminder that "whatifitis" is still alive and well. This occurred while showing a customer a product that lets them write their code once and have it run on several different clients: green screen, Java Swing, and HTML. The business scenario is for someone who has users of all three interfaces, and while the Web or Java interface we generate isn't going to win usability awards against bespoke AJAX or Swing code, it's a good solution for companies who have hundred of screens and just don't want the hassle of many expensive bespoke interfaces. Halfway through the demo, one of the customer's architects asked, "What about the X-Box?" He'd read an article that said how games consoles were the user interface of the future and wanted to know on which release were we going to support this feature. Meeting customers is always odd because I usually only get to be in a room full of managers and their high-level architects, rather than their coders who actually get the work done. Instead of replying, "What if you stopped worrying about the future and, instead of reading airport newsstand IT magazines full of FUD, you spent some time with your users, solving their day-to-day business problems"; I gave a wishy-washy answer that didn't break my company's business conduct guidelines. Pity, what if...?

More Stories By Joe Winchester

Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

Comments (4) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
JDJ News Desk 05/22/06 09:02:34 AM EDT

Some of the words I dread most in a meeting are: 'What if ?' They're fine in the present tense of 'What if a user tries this option?' or 'What if the database read fails mid flight?', but as soon as the future tense is introduced I begin to worry. 'What if the database and middleware changes?' or 'What if sometime soon we don't just have to run on PCs but need to work on mobile phones?' There is also the future future tense such as 'What happens to the UI if the operating system is ported to run on a wrist watch?' or 'What if one day the company merges with another whose corporate standard is MAC and SNA?'

JDJ News Desk 05/22/06 08:22:55 AM EDT

Some of the words I dread most in a meeting are: 'What if ?' They're fine in the present tense of 'What if a user tries this option?' or 'What if the database read fails mid flight?', but as soon as the future tense is introduced I begin to worry. 'What if the database and middleware changes?' or 'What if sometime soon we don't just have to run on PCs but need to work on mobile phones?' There is also the future future tense such as 'What happens to the UI if the operating system is ported to run on a wrist watch?' or 'What if one day the company merges with another whose corporate standard is MAC and SNA?'

JDJ News Desk 05/21/06 06:08:06 PM EDT

Some of the words I dread most in a meeting are: 'What if ?' They're fine in the present tense of 'What if a user tries this option?' or 'What if the database read fails mid flight?', but as soon as the future tense is introduced I begin to worry. 'What if the database and middleware changes?' or 'What if sometime soon we don't just have to run on PCs but need to work on mobile phones?' There is also the future future tense such as 'What happens to the UI if the operating system is ported to run on a wrist watch?' or 'What if one day the company merges with another whose corporate standard is MAC and SNA?'

JDJ News Desk 05/21/06 05:28:20 PM EDT

Some of the words I dread most in a meeting are: 'What if ?' They're fine in the present tense of 'What if a user tries this option?' or 'What if the database read fails mid flight?', but as soon as the future tense is introduced I begin to worry. 'What if the database and middleware changes?' or 'What if sometime soon we don't just have to run on PCs but need to work on mobile phones?' There is also the future future tense such as 'What happens to the UI if the operating system is ported to run on a wrist watch?' or 'What if one day the company merges with another whose corporate standard is MAC and SNA?'

@ThingsExpo Stories
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, will motivate why realizing the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insigh...
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @CloudExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Carbonite will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Carbonite protects your entire IT footprint with the right level of protection for each workload, ensuring lower costs and dependable solutions with DoubleTake and Evault.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs oft...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outscale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Outscale's technology makes an automated and adaptable Cloud available to businesses, supporting them in the most complex IT projects while controlling their operational aspects. You boost your IT infrastructure's reactivity, with request responses that only take a few seconds.
As cloud adoption continues to transform business, today's global enterprises are challenged with managing a growing amount of information living outside of the data center. The rapid adoption of IoT and increasingly mobile workforce are exacerbating the problem. Ensuring secure data sharing and efficient backup poses capacity and bandwidth considerations as well as policy and regulatory compliance issues.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud computing technologies. Ge...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...
The 21st International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Interoute is the owner operator of Europe's largest network and a global cloud services platform, which encompasses over 70,000 km of lit fiber, 15 data centers, 17 virtual data centers and 33 colocation centers, with connections to 195 additional partner data centers. Our full-service Unifie...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs ofte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi LTD., will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) will be featuring the Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) portfolio. This is the industry’s only offering that allows organizations to bring together object storage, file sync and share, cloud storage gateways, and sophisticated search and...
Existing Big Data solutions are mainly focused on the discovery and analysis of data. The solutions are scalable and highly available but tedious when swapping in and swapping out occurs in disarray and thrashing takes place. The resolution for thrashing through machine learning algorithms and support nomenclature is through simple techniques. Organizations that have been collecting large customer data are increasingly seeing the need to use the data for swapping in and out and thrashing occurs ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 21st International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.