How to Build a Product Suite
By Antony Reynolds on Apr 06, 2009
I was in Redwood Shores this week with a customer and we were lucky enough to have Thomas Kurian speak to us for an hour in a Q&A session. One of the customers I was accompanying, Michael, asked a really useful question, well actually he asked several but I am only blogging about one of them. Michael is in charge of his company’s largest software development that will redefine the types of service that can be offered by his company. Quite naturally he is feeling a little pressured so his question to Thomas was not related to technical issues but to the philosophy of integrating different products into a consistent product stack. Obviously Thomas has a great track record on this, WebLogic Suite combines products from Oracle, BEA and Tangosol in a single product stack; SOA Suite combines products from Oracle, BEA and Oblix into a single product stack etc.
Thomas identified the following steps that can be applied when integrating products into a consistent product set:
- Group similar functionality together into Suites.
This enables a focus on related pieces of functionality and avoids being overwhelmed by the sheer size of the product stack. it also simplifies the messaging that has to be communicated to the market.
- Get the pieces to work together.
Within a suite the emphasis is on making the components work well together, eliminating duplication of function.
- Pick up dependencies in a single way.
Everyone should access the functionality in the same way. This takes advantage of common abstractions and makes it easier for clients of the suite to take up new functionality in a seamless fashion.
- Suite pricing encourages big picture thinking
Customers generally want several related pieces of technology. Bundling them together into suites at a combined price focuses the development teams not just on their small piece of the puzzle but on the wider suite, giving them an incentive to make sure it all works together.
In addition to the carrots mentioned above, force people to pick up functionality in a single way and to be consistent across components in the suite.
In conclusion Thomas identified three principles that guide the above steps
- Unify – using suites
- Simplify – everyone accesses functionality in the same way
- Mandate – force everyone in your organization to play by the rules
Thomas was adamant that Fusion Middleware would be more than a simple branding. Over the last 5 years Thomas has moved the Fusion Middleware towards tighter and tighter integration. The latest demonstration of this will come later this year with the release of SOA Suite 11g.
Michael wasn’t looking for a silver bullet, but I think he did appreciate Thomas’ thoughts on this one.