Letters to the Editor

The education of an IT architect

This month: IT architect Glenn Kimball shines a little light down the road to glory, as a reader seeks advice on how and where to earn his IT credentials. Plus: Jason May speaks his mind on the ("dead") DCE initiative; Performance Q&A with Adrian Cockcroft; and more

June  1998
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IT Architect: "The anatomy of the virtual corporation" by Glenn Kimball

[Read Me]http://www.sunworld.com/sunworldonline/swol-05-1998/swol-05-itarchitect.html

Hands on, or by the book?

Hi Glenn,

Do you have any advice for developers who wish to become IT architects? I feel I need to have hands-on experience before claiming to understand a technology, yet I've noticed that IT architects tend to get the understanding without the hands-on development experience. What are the best ways to gain experience? Seminars? Which kind? Vendor presentations? Books? Trade journals?

John Hilgart


Your thoughts are true: Experience is the best way to gain the knowledge necessary to architect enterprises, but this generally takes a long time. The fundamental situation is that the vast majority of architects have roots within a specific technological sphere (i.e., databases, middleware, UI, the Web, etc.). Most have built an architectural support structure around their core competency, itself the product of experience, seminar attendance, and good old fashioned research. The architect position is a lofty goal for most. It requires that experience and skill development occur simultaneously, even as you build on your knowledge of new technologies and techniques for solving problems.

Gaining knowledge to support your role as architect will always be difficult. My advice is to do what comes naturally to you when you're in the mode of developing knowledge. If you crave hands-on experience, go for it, but make sure you keep an eye on new technologies and how they affect your environment. Develop a specialty area and stick to it, build other technologies to support it, and never forget that an understanding of business issues is paramount. If you don't provide a system that solves a problem you've probably provided a system that is a problem.

Glenn Kimball

IT Architect: "Planning your middleware strategy" by Jason May

[Read Me]http://www.sunworld.com/sunworldonline/swol-04-1998/swol-04-itarchitect.html

DCE is dead: Here's why


At the end of April's IT Architect column in the table called "A brief middleware taxonomy," you comment: "DCE is dead. Avoid." Will you elaborate on that?

John Fauerby


The DCE initiative of the OSF got started almost 10 years ago, and it never really went anywhere. DCE was from the beginning a bloated, unstable mishmash that didn't run effectively on any platform. Vendors that initially planned to release DCE software have gradually faded away, and there aren't any viable firms left doing it. The OSF never realized that the PC would be the enterprise desktop of choice, and the only PC DCE product on the market came from a small unknown firm (Gradient).

None of the major deficiencies of DCE (such as code bloat and the lack of an asynchronous communication API) were ever remedied. Firms that made major investments in DCE are now stuck with a heap of unsupported and unsupportable code.

There is absolutely no good reason for anyone to even consider DCE today. We now have a host of lightweight, specialized middleware options -- MOM from IBM, Tibco, Tuxedo, the CORBA products, and of course Microsoft's DCOM. I'm a little worried that Corba could go the way of DCE, but vendors appear to be avoiding the excesses of DCE, and are cooperating as they never have before.

Unfortunately, there is no clear leader in this space -- no "strategic" middleware option that provides a full set of application communications functionality, performs well, is backed by a strong company, and has a clear direction for the future. That was the promise of DCE, but it failed badly.

Jason May

Fitting middleware into the picture


How do the architectures from TINA-C and TMN, and the frameworks from the Open Group and the Network Management Forum (the Management Systems Framework) fit into the middleware picture? Is middleware just a subset of these?

Vic Charlton


The organizations (TINA, NMF) and standards (TINA-C, TMN) you mentioned are all related to provision of telecommunications services and telecom network management. The standards that these groups are defining absolutely include middleware elements, but also appear to include specifications for the various network elements, management requirements, service level expectations, and so forth.

As these specifications are implemented by the various consortium members, it will be necessary to drive the high-level architecture principles that are provided down to the level of specific technology selections. If the various consortium members' systems are expected to interoperate, it will be necessary at some point to make a common decision between MOM, RPC, CORBA, DCOM, and so forth.

Jason May

Performance Q&A with Adrian Cockcroft

[Read Me]http://www.sunworld.com/sunworldonline/swol-05-1998/swol-05-perf.html

CPU on reserve


Is processor partitioning possible on single-CPU Solaris 2.6 systems? Among the hundreds of systems I am working on, each has a single embedded SPARC processor running Solaris 2.6. We have many different applications running, and it would be very convenient to limit each application to a percentage of the available CPU power (i.e., application A would only be allowed to consume X percent of the CPU regardless of the load on the system).

Currently, one process can occasionally consume 100 percent of the CPU, which causes problems when another application also needs significant CPU to perform time-critical work. The processes do real-time data acquisition, and a few key processes already run with real-time priority.

The idea is to "reserve" a percentage of the CPU for each application, thereby ensuring that an overloaded CPU condition does not occur.

What do you think?

Dave Wright


What you want is a share scheduler. Sun has announced plans to implement one, but it's not yet available and requires detailed changes to the Solaris kernel to implement. The product we've been working on is Share II from Softway (www.softway.com.au). However, if you have a lot of small systems, it may be too expensive as a per-system option.

Adrian Cockcroft

Disk fragmentation: how, why, and do we care?


How does Solaris handle disk fragmentation? Does it automatically defragment periodically? If not, how do we deal with it, or do we care?

Ronald Kwok


UFS file systems are always slightly fragmented. UFS was not designed to handle very large files. I recommend using Veritas VxFS for efficient access to gigabyte-sized files. Sun sells this as an option.

Another option, if you create files and leave them in place for a long time, is a third-party disk defragmenter/sorter called Eagle DiskPak. I think you can download a demo that will let you see how fragmented UFS is from www.eaglesoft.com.

Adrian Cockcroft

Security: "Web server wiles '98, part one" by Peter Galvin and Carole Fennelly

[Read Me]http://www.sunworld.com/sunworldonline/swol-05-1998/swol-05-security.html

Right on the mark

Peter and Carole,

I don't get to read SunWorld as often as I'd like, but I'm never disappointed when I do. Your recent column regarding protection of Web servers is greatly appreciated. Moreover, it was precise, timely, and understandable. Keep it up.

Kip Knight

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