Iceberg: cuts code, evolves your enterprise

Iceberg: cuts code, evolves your enterprise

Summary: This is a dual post written and posted simultaneously. For the perspective of how Iceberg this benefits student, check the post over at iGeneration.

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iceberg-logo.pngThis is a dual post written and posted simultaneously. For the perspective of how Iceberg this benefits student, check the post over at iGeneration. Some bits are the same and used in both entries; ain't easy posting the same thing for different audiences.

A few weeks ago when I was trying to distract my ever marathon-running mind with the death of a close friend, I spoke to Wayne Byrne - a brilliant and inspiring young chap from the shining streets of Ireland. We spoke for the best part of 2 hours, and he talked me through this software.

As I wrote over on t'other blog, Iceberg is basically a platform which takes on a similar look to SharePoint, without being SharePoint. It's a web platform which enables you to make custom, complicated workflow based, high-quality and dynamic; yet stable applications simply, without writing a single line of code.

The key to Iceberg is the "no written code" factor to it, enabling anybody to really use it. I've used it and I know a little of Java (courtesy of two fantastic lecturers for my first year at university) and some web languages, but nothing exciting. With Iceberg comes a huge back-end database, but in terms of database knowledge, you don't need to know anything. All you need to know about using this software is what you want to make, and not how to actually make it.

Considering it's the CIO's and the CTO's of an organisation which will often make the Visio-style flowcharts, explaining everything that the application does and how it's meant to do it; it's these two executive officers who are the ones who can and should be able to design something themselves in Iceberg. Even low-level developers can make something faster - a better application, automatic chart generating, report generating, user access controls, calendars, views and data flows.

With .NET and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 running behind the scenes on the computer or server you've installed it on, you start off making a database. The database can talk to pretty much any other legacy database out there making inter-collaboration better; it can even talk to cross-operating systems and platforms. Any legacy databases can be queried live; lots of data could be out of date and you could get a semi-trained monkey (an intern) to use Iceberg and update it, without breaking anything.

With the search and databasing features, you can even update details on certain tasks done by which only that person worked on - even out of the entire user access database. It populates forms directly from the database - up-to-date or legacy - and does it fast.

This software is a great example of "Enterprise 2.0"; enterprise software enabling the organisation to work with XML and web services and nothing else. By using web services, web applications and protocols, it increases efficiency overall. The security features make sure you can't tread on anyone else's turf, with read only, read-write and full access permissions available.

One of the killer features is the Process Designer. If you do have a passion for coding, although not necessary with Iceberg, this is the place to do it... except you still don't write any code. You simple start dragging and dropping things into a Visio-style pane, all Flash based. This workflow viewing allows you to see the objects and manipulate them to how you want them to work.

The fields you can create are different for all things; it makes life so much easier and simpler for non-developers. The Enterprise 2.0 live connection to other databases allows you to see what fields are available to you to the micro-second (obviously dependant on your network speeds), and the rest of your visual fields are highly customisable.

Oh and there's more. Read on, fellow colleague of the wider enterprise symposium.

The Web 2.0 features don't stop there. When searching for something, a live search appears next to your search box so you can see the results as you type. The AJAX is all on the server, as this allows you to keep track of what you're doing in a "live feed". Because the system is so expandable, you don't have to change anything much. It'd take a hell of a lot longer to write the code, and this makes the nightmare of coding fade away. Whilst everything can be made searchable, the reporting features work a treat, allowing you to see what has been changed and who's done what, where and why.

This software is a breakthrough in the ability to edit, modify and change the way things work. It has editable lists, considering most enterprises use Excel for their simple databases and worksheets. Many enterprise applications are huge installations, and 90% of the work often is done in Excel; people don't like change much, and they like their simplicity.

With editable grids, whatever is changed, the event in the Process Designer is changed also. It allows you to change things for the users too, making the user interface friendly.

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Using Iceberg, you can invite your clients in by adding a "switch" the processes, enabling the clients to approve or deny changes. It allows others to see the changes you've made, the time to do it by, and whether they like it or not. You can even make groups of users decide the fate of a change in their own project by allowing them control over each decision in the process.

You're probably aware that many enterprise applications have and use workflow. However, Iceberg can understand lateral language; not natural language as such, but to the varying degree where you can essentially describe what you want and it'll understand it.

Back into the Process Designer, you can edit the properties of each part of the workflow diagram. When in the properties of an event, you can apply business characteristics of certain events. Take this for example. Say you want to ask a client if the changes made are acceptable, but you don't want to bug them at ridiculous times. You can apply a calendar say from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, including public and bank holidays, as well as regional and cultural holidays, to ensure they're not bugged when they can't reply.

If you're working in a time zone or a culture where you don't celebrate Eid (the Islamic holiday marking the end of Ramadan) but ask the client to make changes, it'll hold off until the holiday is over and then request the changes. Not only that, you can set time parameters on an event, so if something on the client side is overdue, you can apply an event to email the client and remind them. Ingenious.

From the client's perspective, the tasks pane with the objects held there, it'll tell you what needs doing. By simply clicking on it, you get a Boolean value of "approve" or "deny", making it idiot proof, even for the work placement intern.

Something else which will get the enterprise interested, is the ability to download into Iceberg. You can send a document to a client via ordinary Outlook email and carbon-copy it and it'll be sent into the Iceberg document repository. It automatically works out who it is from, and then stores it where it needs to go.

Not only that, you will be able to send faxes to Iceberg. It'll download them straight into the platform under similar circumstances to mentioned previous downloads, but it'll store them as individual pages. The eFax services will get devices and technologies talking, or in the near future you'll be able to create a .NET object with an OCR component, and have it wired up to your process flow and include it into your overall project.

For websites which have self-service applications, you can get the core object from Iceberg and simply put it in an IFrame on your website and it'll work seamlessly. Even though the age-old IFrame may appear to have died out in the late 90's, it's still around to this day. It's as if it's "coming back into fashion" like flared jeans or pimp-sticks.

If you opt for the third-party solution, you can use your Iceberg environment in the cloud as a hosted service. You can buy rack space which gives Amazon EC2 for .NET; after all, Iceberg is basically a website - a very clever website, but nonetheless, just a website.

The user interface leaves little to be undesired, as most people in the enterprise industry will have come across SharePoint, if not still use it in their current line of work. Everyone seems to work with it for their portals, whether internal or external ones. However, Iceberg with its looks and feel isn't a replacement for SharePoint - it's a replacement for code. SharePoint doesn't do anything that Iceberg does as such; SharePoint is for document sharing, whereas Iceberg is an entire non-code development environment.

You can currently customise and stylise how you want Iceberg to look, as it supports custom HTML, JavaScript and CSS comes with the next release in the coming weeks. Along with that, the next release, coming very soon, includes a toolbox in the Process Designer, allowing you to create custom .NET code and upload it to the folder where it'll stay. It'll allow you to customise and include something that Iceberg may not have; a new document creating snap-in, or something FTP related should you wish.

So what can you really do with Iceberg?

With this magnificent feat of subtle ingenious and slight insanity (sorry Wayne, the two come hand in hand, it's not a bad thing!), you could replace 100 odd CRM applications. (Look, I even used a buzz-acronym - Dennis would be so proud!)

Programming takes ages, and many programmers don't understand the business solution. It's always full of bugs or security flaws, not necessarily the code written but maybe the backend running engine. Iceberg makes it easy to understand, but the people who want it - the clients.

This is a plea from me. Enterprise bosses, executives, CIO's and CTO's alike - at least take a look and give it a spin. You'll save time, money, energy, client-side and business-side costs, and will throw your company into the Enterprise 2.0 era; one where every system works and communicates with each other like public schooled English gentlemen.

A little like me and Dennis actually. Why would you not want your company to work like us, eh? The mind boggles.

Topics: Storage, Browser, Collaboration, Data Centers, Data Management, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Software, Software Development

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7 comments
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  • Easier to write a web service in an SOA

    The problem with these types of soup to nuts servers is they are fighting the last war.

    I find it much easier to construct little applications using .NET and java inside an SOA than to maintain a behemoth "application server" and have to spend nine weeks RTFM'ing, studying millions of lines of APIs, and posting forum messages trying to figure out how adjust a paragraph compute a special value.

    SOA with really good custom code is far more efficient and useable architecture for many IT shops and even a good replacement for the biggie size application servers.

    Pay someone $10,000 a year more to do the job right and avoid paying $1 Million in licensing fees, or $100,000 in man hours trying to figure out someone else's mousetrap.
    jabailo1
  • Iceberg looks cool above water line but proprietary dangers below - NT

    NT
    raycote
  • Nice Advert, Zack

    And for free, too!

    And really so-so throw back stuff that was being done in the early 90s with minor success. Very minor success.

    All dressed up and nowhere to go unless you're strictly a Microsoft shop and host on the server Iceberg gives you.

    *** YAWN ***

    ttfn

    John
    TtfnJohn
  • I like code, I hate flow charts. When you know code, code is beautiful...

    I can say stuff in code that I couldn't draw if my life depended on it.

    I'm never going to use this.
    T1Oracle
  • Watch out for the Iceberg!

    It will definitely sink your company. These "solutions" have been around for more than two decades and haven't been able to gain traction for solving any enterprise level problems yet. Not for a lack of trying either. I wonder why? But alas, there will always be managers or marketing types who get suckered into believing complex problems can be solved without having to invest in the expertise it takes to create a good solution. This looks like another hole in which to dump money and time, then develop the right solution with real tools.
    alsoran
  • Cobol was also supposed to supplant

    the programmers. It was to be a language based on English that would allow users to develop apps without needing to know how to program. The problem is that programming is more than just the ability to code. When it comes to databases, users designing their own database is a nightmare waiting to happen. Where I work they have a third party app that's good example of what happens when users create databases. The app uses two different databases that have the same exact tables. They could've created one database and added a column to one table to distinguish between the two types of moves being recorded (local, interstate).<br><br> This product maybe useful for making mockups, but your still going to need a programmer to make sure the project is done right.
    alaniane@...
  • Iceberg: Classic Innovative Disruption

    I have no programming skills, yet I am able to build
    robust business applications for my company and our
    clients using Iceberg.

    I've worked for big insurance companies where projects
    died because we couldn't translate the new business
    process into business logic (aka- code). These were
    some of the most frustrating meetings for me. It's
    tough to identify customer needs, develop solutions
    and get them to market before your competition. It's
    an enormous task to create a whole paradigm for a team
    of programmers in a few 2-hour meetings, so they can
    understand every nuance of the transaction with the
    customer. The programmers' knowledge of the business
    need is never complete and only extremely-competent
    managers on the customer-facing and IT sides can pull
    off the successful project.

    Iceberg lets me deliver the business solutions without
    having to endure the above process. Since I know the
    customer need, state laws, provider processes and
    other nuances, I just build the business objects in
    Iceberg and connect all the stakeholders. It's made my
    work exponentially more effective and enjoyable. Heck,
    I've even done the impossible. I've integrated 2
    third-party data vendors (web services/XML feeds).
    This was "impossible" at a Fortune 50 insurance
    company, for whom I worked.

    Did I mentioned I can't code squat?

    So, cool your programming outrage. Iceberg doesn't
    replace programmers. It brings the business processes
    closer to the client. It allows us to listen with both
    ears to the customer and turn that into business
    solution.
    benjamin.atkinson@...