The coolest things we saw at WSO2Con Asia 2016

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Held at the Water’s Edge hotel overlooking the literal edge of the Diyawanna Oya, WSO2CON is by far one of the largest Conferences to be held in Sri Lanka. The conference showcases some of the greatest names in the industry and also is a showcase for the innovations that take place in the hallowed halls of WSO2 offices worldwide. Spanning across three days, we absorbed it all and put the contents into a large hat (not before kicking out the resident rabbit). From there, we proceeded to take all the cool stuff we saw at the conference and lay it all out for you.

The opening

Day One was mostly a collection of technical presentations and tutorials. Day Two had CEO, Co-founder and Chief Architect of WSO2 Dr. Sanjiva Weerawarana, delivering the keynote speech.

He spoke plainly and openly as he described the inception and journey of WSO2 for the past 10 years. It all started in 2005 with a grand total of 12 people. goal was to create an environment that is open source, venture funded and developed not just to reinvest technology but rather, how a business works and how business is done and from where. He also proudly mentioned that since inception, WSO2 has been featured in 20 Gartner and Forester Analysis reports and communicated with nearly 300 customers and is empowered by a 500 person team; quite an achievement indeed.

Sanjiva Weerawarana, Ph.D. Founder, CEO & Chief Architect of WSO2 delivering the opening keynote. (Image credits: WSO2)
Sanjiva Weerawarana, Ph.D. Founder, CEO & Chief Architect of WSO2 delivering the opening keynote. (Image credits: WSO2)

What WSO2 does best is omnichannel interaction, Sanjiva says. Picture yourself on a phone call with a company representative. That representative should have the ability to send information he/she thinks is relevant to you. This would make your conversations and even mundane tasks easier to complete. This is what WSO2 does.

Sanjiva then went on to a brief and rather an eccentric example of a traveler on a plane. In this case, Boeing which has a platform to make traveling easier. There’s also MyPortal in Dubai, Stubhub, Dominoes, eBay, and VeriFone is just some of the big names that employ WSO2’s platform. Let’s not forget local examples such as Hilton, Dialog TV and even the Sri Lanka Vehicle Registration Department all utilize WSO2’s platform integration.

“We enable customers to become a better digital business. If you’re ready to go all the way, we can do it all, or solve any part of the puzzle you’re ready to solve.” – Sanjiva Weerawarana

Dr. Harsha Subasinghe and Dr. Beshan Kulapala of CodeGen were up on Day 02 to deliver their speeches on CodeGen and the Vega. Since the last time we saw them (http://readme.lk/apitath-puluwang-codegens-sri-lankan-supercar/), the project has indeed gone forth in leaps and bounds.

The WSO2 Analytics Platform

The next cool thing we saw was the WSO2 Analytics Platform. It first collects data from your app or IoT (internet of Things) devices. After that, it analyzes the data based on queries you’ve defined. Then it displays the results of the queries on a dashboard. This dashboard is made up of different components which you can place on the screen. Think of a bunch of lego blocks that you can move around and attach to other blocks and get a clear a picture of how users are interacting with your app. Got the picture? If you think you have what it takes, then you can head over here to see the platform out for yourself .

Nirmal Fernando introducing the WSO2 Analytics Platform (Image credits: WSO2)
Nirmal Fernando, Associate Technical Lead at WSO2, introducing the WSO2 Analytics Platform (Image credits: WSO2)

Day One of the Conference had tutorials for everything WSO2 offers. Enter Nirmal Fernando and Sinthuja Rajendran who are both Associate Technical Leads at WSO2. The session was rather technical in nature and featured a full-blown breakdown of the WSO2 Analytics Platform. For further reading, you can visit this link to view the entire presentation. For a more technical look at the platform with a few use cases, check out the presentation on Day 03 by Dr. Srinath Perera, Vice President – Research, WSO2 here.

“Why do you need analytics?” This was the question put forth by Isabelle Mauny, Vice President of Product Management at WSO2 in her keynote speech, talking about businesses that have transformed their customer’s relationship by using existing data as well as real-time information. In addition, she also spoke about how WSO2′s strategy could assist your business as well.

“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” – Isabelle Mauny

Isabelle drew from life experience regarding customer experience where the service a customer gets is key. When she arrived at her hotel, the receptionist greeted her by telling her exactly where places like the restaurant and the pool were. However, Isabelle already knew this because she has been to that same hotel almost 10 times. The problem was that the receptionist had no data to let him/her know that Isabelle had stayed at the hotel almost 10 times. You need to have historical data regarding your customers.

Isabelle Mauny Vice President of Product Management at WSO2 delivering her keynote (Image credits: WSO2)
Isabelle Mauny Vice President of Product Management at WSO2 delivering her keynote (Image credits: WSO2)

Isabelle shared another example, a more general one about a retail business. If the business offers a discount to its customers, then it should do so the moment the customers walk into the store. To send this offer to customers 5 days later when conducting a campaign is almost pointless and will genuinely be less effective. However, to do this the business would need to know when exactly a customer walks into the store. The business needs to understand the context of the data it gathers.

“Every industry has plenty of data.” – Isabelle Mauny

She then touched on the three types on analytics and how they help you achieve business intelligence when used in unison. The three types of analytics are:

  • Batch analytics which is where you collect data in batches and analyze it at pre-set intervals.
  • Streaming analytics, which is where you analyze data in real time. An example of this would be the twitter feed we saw at the conference. In simple terms, it took all tweets published under the WSO2Con hashtag and analyzed them. The goal of the analysis was to identify what keywords were popular and what people were talking about #WSO2Con in general.
  • Predictive analytics, which is where you use historical data, statistical algorithms and machine learning to predict the future. An example of this is how many turkeys die during Thanksgiving.

With these three types of analytics working together, you can obtain valuable data that helps you identify things. However, that is as far as analytics goes. It will help you identify things but once these things have been identified, something has to happen. This could be an activation of an IoT device or even another business process. This was the message Isabelle concluded her keynote with. You can find further reading regarding Isabelle’s keynote here.

The WSO2 IoT Server

With IoT playing a bigger part each and every day, the next area we found cool was WSO2’s IOT Server. An uber-simple explanation of this would be that this is WSO2’s solution to IoT (Internet of Things). It takes whatever IoT devices you have, regardless if they are Android, Raspberry Pi or Apple devices. It then provides the bridges that allow all these different devices to communicate.

Day One of the conference saw Ruwan Yatawara and Dilshan Edirisuriya, both Senior Software Engineers at WSO2 speaking to the audience about how WSO2 can help guide them on the path to IoT and enterprise mobility. Dilshan began by introducing us to enterprise mobility, which refers to how a business can give its employees access to corporate resources through their mobile devices. There are many pros and cons to letting an employee access corporate resources using his/her own devices. WSO2 helps simplify the process using its Enterprise Mobility Manager.

Ruwan Yatawara introducing the WSO2 IoT Server (Image credits: WSO2)
Ruwan Yatawara, Senior Software Engineers at WSO2, introducing the WSO2 IoT Server (Image credits: WSO2)

Following, Dilshan’s introduction to the Enterprise Mobility Manager, Ruwan began his in-depth introduction to the WSO2 IoT server. By in-depth not only did Ruwan tell us what the WSO2 IoT server does, but also showed us how it works by giving members of the audience a few Raspberry Pi’s for an interactive demo.

Another interesting session regarding the IoT server was carried out by Sumedha Rubasinghe, Director – API Architecture at WSO2. Sumedha gave us a bit more insight on how customers and device manufacturers can use WSO2’s IoT server. He opens by giving an example of purchasing a smart fire alarm. As a new customer, Sumedha visits a website link and registers himself to get a user account. He then logs into his account and registers his fire alarm. Having registered his fire alarm, he can now monitor the temperature in his house and control the operation of the fire alarm from the dashboard. This is the customer side of the WSO2 IoT server.

Sumedha Rubasinghe speaking on the WSO2 IoT Server (Image credits: WSO2)
Sumedha Rubasinghe, Director – API Architecture at WSO2, speaking on the WSO2 IoT Server (Image credits: WSO2)

Having explained the customer side, Sumedha then moved on to show us how device manufacturers can use the WSO2 IoT server. When it comes to IoT devices, manufacturers face some significant challenges. From device registration to firmware management to security issues, the list can be very long. This is where the WSO2 IoT server comes into play. It offers the core functionality along with IoT analytics of WSO2’s IoT platform and helps them solve many of the software issues that IoT device manufacturers face. You can find the full details and learn more about the WSO2 IoT platform from Sumedha’s slides here.

Microservices 101

The next area we felt that was really cool was the era of Microservices. This isn’t as much a product as it is something educational. It’s an architecture for software. Most softwares today are developed as a combination of various components working together. If one component fails then the whole software fails. In a microservices architecture, each of the components are independent of each other. This means if one component fails the software still works. This is the simple definition of what a microservices architecture is.

Sagara Gunathunga introducing Microservices to us (Image credits: WSO2)
Sagara Gunathunga, Software Architect at WSO2, introducing Microservices to us (Image credits: WSO2)

At a presentation by Sagara Gunathunga, Software Architect at WSO2, we were able to expand our understanding from this definition. Sagara began his presentation by highlighting the problems with traditional monolithic applications, such as scalability issues and updates easily become complex. Its issues like this that make microservices attractive. But how does one define a microservice? According to Sagara, the 5 characteristics that define a microservice are:

  • A microservice has a single purpose and is loosely coupled in the design of the application
  • A microservice should be independently deployable and disposable
  • They are organized around business capabilities and not individual teams such as server-side or UI.
  • Decentralized data management
  • Microservices support the use of different technologies (technology heterogeneity) among services

Despite the benefits of the microservices architectures, there are downsides to it. The downsides are exactly the same as that of monolithic applications. As Sagara describes, “We don’t eliminate complexity with microservices. We only moved them somewhere else.”  Additionally, if there’s a large number of microservices, it’s impossible to centralize governance and it increases the stress on the network. So if you plan on using a microservices architecture for your application, you will need to weigh the pros and cons beforehand. For more details, check out Sagara’s slides here.

Akfham Azeez introducing the MS4J framework (Image credits: WSO2)
Akfham Azeez, Director of architecture at WSO2, introducing the MS4J framework (Image credits: WSO2)

We found another more technical presentation on microservices by Afkham Azeez, Director of architecture at WSO2. His presentation was on the topic, creating Microservices with the WSO2 Microservices Framework for Java. The WSO2 Microservices Framework for Java is better known as MSF4J which is a lightweight but powerful framework developers can use to build microservices in Java. With this, developers now have a tool to easily develop and deploy and microservices they build. Furthermore, it also comes with built-in security features and analytics to help developers monitor their microservices. You can learn more about MSF4J from Akfham’s slides here.

The Wrap-up

Those were the three coolest things we saw at WSO2Con Asia 2016. In addition to the sessions we spoke about here, there were also a number of business tracks that took place. WSO2Con certainly gave us a lot of food for thought to process. A full breakdown of all presentations that took place in the conference can be seen here.

If you weren’t at WSO2Con, you can still checkout the other slides. However, you’ll have to do a bit of digging inside WSO2’s SlideShare account. The combination of all these sessions resulted in a well-organized conference that was indeed both informative and rather awe inspiring as well.

Here’s to WSO2Con Asia 2017.

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