Constellation Insights

U.S. FCC head talks about the future of networking: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai took the keynote stage at this week's Mobile World Congress event in San Francisco and laid out his vision for the future of networking. Pai's remarks emphasized the expansion of mobile broadband, versus fixed networks, and he also failed to say two very controversial words: net neutrality.

The FCC is considering an overhaul of the net neutrality rules passed in 2015 under the Obama administration. Net neutrality forbids ISPs from blocking or slowing down Internet traffic that points to legal content, and also from favoring traffic based on payments or other considerations. But critics, in particular Pai, say the rules classified ISPs as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act, which was an anti-competitive overreach.

Pai did acknowledge the net neutrality debate by referring to the FCC's proposal, which is dubbed "Restoring Internet Freedom," and made it clear where he stands:

I believe that the FCC’s most powerful tool for expanding digital opportunity is setting rules that maximize private investment in high-speed networks. For the plain reality is that the more difficult government makes the business case for deployment, the less likely it is that broadband providers, big and small, will invest the billions of dollars needed to connect consumers. Too often, unnecessary rules make it more expensive to construct these networks than it needs to be.

POV: A transcript of Pai's full remarks is available at this link and they are well worth a read. A public comment period on the proposed changes ended on Aug. 17, and a decision is expected as early as this year. The net neutrality debate, like so many others, has been waged on partisan lines, but there is still a chance for compromise. Net neutrality—or the dissolving of it—will be a crucial factor in the development of next-generation network infrastructure and it's worth following the outcome closely.

Java EE heads to Eclipse Foundation: Oracle is relinquishing a good deal of control over Java Enterprise Edition, as Java EE's new home will be at the Eclipse Foundation, software evangelist David Delabassee said in a blog post.

Oracle announced its intentions to move Java EE to an open-source foundation in August. Since then, it has worked with IBM and Red Hat, the two next largest contributors to Java EE, on how to proceed, Delabassee said. Here's how he describes Oracle's plan for Java EE:

Relicense Oracle-led Java EE technologies, and related GlassFish technologies, to the foundation.

Demonstrate the ability to build a compatible implementation, using foundation sources, that passes existing Java EE 8 TCKs.

Define a branding strategy for the platform within the foundation, including a new name for Java EE to be determined. We intend to enable use of existing javax package names and component specification names for existing JSRs to provide continuity.

Define a process by which existing specifications can evolve, and new specifications can be included in the platform.

Recruit and enable developers and other community members, as well as vendors, to sponsor platform technologies, and bring the platform forward within the foundation.

Oracle intends to continue supporting existing Java EE licenses including ones moving to the upcoming Java EE 8. It will also support Java EE 8 in future versions of the widely used WebLogic Server.

POV: Notably, Oracle is maintaining control of Java SE, upon which EE is built. Many organizations are beginning new application projects with SE, seeing no need for the more complicated, heavier EE stack. Moreover, Java EE has been losing ground to lighter-weight frameworks such as Spring, which have also benefited from a nimbler release schedule.

While Oracle maintains the move to Eclipse will help Java EE evolve faster, one might wonder whether the vendor simply doesn't see enough of an economic opportunity for the platform. No question: There are countless custom enterprise applications out there that were built upon Java EE, but the question is whether the future holds continuous innovation or a decline into maintenance mode.

Legacy watch: Troubled Minnesota DMV system driving citizens crazy: A recently launched computer system for the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles is wracked with problems, despite the fact it ended up costing twice its original budget and went well over schedule.

The $90 million Minnesota Licensing and Registration System is causing long lines, erronous billing, failed transactions such as new car registrations, and holding up car sales because dealers can't obtain new titles, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. State officials are being apologetic, while still offering excuses:

Officials with DPS and Minnesota IT Services said Monday that they had made a number of mistakes in developing MNLARS, including poor training of deputy registrars and not being responsive to the public once issues arose.

They also said that some of the missing features were deliberately not ready, as part of the state’s software development strategy.

“The system by design did not have all functionality at launch,” said Paul Meekin, the chief business technology officer at MN.IT. “To ship a system following modern development practices, you have to pick a point and you have to pick the features you’re going to have in your first release.”

Critics said the problems with MNLARS were known well before its debut. The dealers association asked for a rollout delay in January but was rebuffed.

POV: The project dates back nine years, and the state initially contracted with Hewlett-Packard to built it. It terminated HP's contract for lack of performance in 2014 and took the project in-house. A state audit released in June pinpointed a number of issues as problematic, including a lack of communication from project leaders and failure to deliver training on the new system effectively. Overall, the situation is familiar music with respect to many large-scale IT projects in both the public and private sector.