Caroline pointed out that the last post was incoherent. I know what she means. Attempting to write spontaneously, it was blurt of mixed-up resentments laced with a few understated victories. Rather than return and straighten out that effort, I will unpick things and present a few short posts isolating some positive and negative thoughts.

What have I done these five years to make me feel proud? It’s been a team effort, but a few improvements to which I have leant my weight:

We adopted Red Hat Linux as default standard operating system. I arrived to a mix of Windows and IBM AIX. Nothing in particular wrong with Windows (it’s not my bag), but AIX was a liability. Application implementations were fraught with hard-to-find bugs. It became apparent that vendors such as Oracle and BMC placed AIX 4th or 5th in the pecking order for testing. Furthermore the IBM Power hardware was costly and headed for obsolescence. Linux allowed us to adopt commodity Intel-based hardware, and has been robust and well-supported by application vendors. Ubuntu or Centos might have been cheaper and braver choices, but would not have given the confidence of support by tier 1 application vendors.

We focused our application development effort on Java, specifically Pivotal’s Spring. The development team still has to support legacy Microsoft technologies, ASP and .NET, but they now have a focus on recruiting and developing the skill set for modern Java. Java developers are easier to find. The strategy has allowed them to progress into areas such as continuous delivery, and the rapid development framework Spring Boot. Again, there could have been cooler and braver choices (Ruby on Rails and its polyglot siblings) but, as much as I am tempted by the fast-moving, shiny toys, we are still an enterprise shop.

After a brief flirtation with MySQL, we have plumped for PostgreSQL as our non-Oracle database. Yes, we continue to use Oracle Enterprise Edition; we have no choice for many of the enterprise suites we (regrettably) are committed to. But we have placed a considerable bet on Postgres for some demanding bespoke applications.

And finally, in another bold move away from Oracle, we declined to pump a further £1m+ into Oracle SOA Suite and instead chose Red Hat JBoss Fuse. SOA Suite promised great things, but is the typical mega-vendor ‘kitchen sink’ middleware suite. I never had the sense that our developers understood it deeply. Furthermore, and the final straw, was that Oracle’s licensing prevented us from affordably deploying SOA Suite on our standard VMware infrastructure. We came close to creating an Oracle ‘ghetto’, a special purpose virtualised environment where Oracle software could be deployed without a many-fold increase in licence costs. But I couldn’t stomach it. JBoss Fuse is a packaging of Apache projects: ActiveMQ, Camel, CXF; with the commercial support the enterprise demands. It lacks the sophistication of the mega-vendor alternatives, but I view that as a positive. It allows us to treat integration as just another aspect of application development, with our Java team handling the complete task.

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