The WSO2 Approach to Creating and Managing Content for Open Source Products

“Just open, honest communication is the best thing in the world” (Brett Davern). I was delighted when I stumbled upon this quote, because it sums up our approach to technical content at WSO2. There are plenty of advantages to open content: driving adoption and expansion, improving content quality via better feedback from users, and increasing successful usage of our products.

You may wonder why we make our documentation and even our training content publicly available for free. After all, support is an integral part of our business model, and it contributes to a sizable percentage of our revenue at WSO2. What we have discovered is that high-quality, freely available content does not deter users from buying support. For customers who are building mission-critical solutions, support is essential to receiving timely responses to problems they may be experiencing, whether it’s a bug in the code or a question about the best way to solve a particular problem.

One of the primary advantages of open content is that it drives adoption and expansion. Our goal is to have as many users as possible, and when our documentation and training content is freely available, users have a better opportunity to get up and running with our products quickly and effectively. As they learn ways to solve their business problems with our solutions, people discover more of our products and features that can be used to solve other problems that they envision.

Another major advantage is that open content helps you to improve content quality. More readers mean more feedback. At WSO2, we take it one step further by making the documentation available during the development process itself to ensure that we receive feedback during the entire content release cycle. Getting user feedback early helps us immensely in the planning stage to make sure that issues of concern are addressed in our next release.

When developing training content, we point to the documentation for much of the conceptual information, so that as you learn to use the products during training, you become thoroughly familiar with the documentation as well. This approach allows users to easily go back and find information after they’ve completed the training. We’ve also discovered the following best practices for creating content for open source products:

  • Categorize the content types – at the beginning of a release, plan not only the documentation and training content for each new feature but also what would work best as technical articles, blog posts, or marketing content.
  • Write for a wide audience – open source products have wider audiences, many of whom are non-native English speakers. Use clear, concise language and include a glossary of terms.
  • Test and review on multiple platforms.
  • Engage the community – introduce simple processes for contributing, develop reward systems, build relationships with users, and recognize people’s strengths to maximize contributions from a wider community.
  • Release documentation at each milestone to encourage timely and ongoing feedback.

When your content is ready for distribution, there is a range of platforms you can use. We primarily use Confluence and GitHub at WSO2, but some other platforms we’ve been researching are ReadtheDocs.org, Mkdocs, and Asciidoc.

To learn more about these platforms, best practices, open source content licensing, and detailed advantages of open content, check out my webinar on creating and managing content for open source products.

Honoring WSO2’s Long-Standing Customers by Helping Those in Need

Earlier this year at WSO2Con USA we celebrated our customers who’ve stuck with us through thick and thin for 10 long years — eBay, Kaiser Permanente, Trimble and Concur. In recognition of their long-standing relationship with us, we launched the WSO2 10-Year Customer Anniversary Undergraduate Scholarship Program — a program that offers a full undergraduate university scholarship to passionate students in Sri Lanka.

Standing by our commitment to education (we have over 100 alumni that have or are currently pursuing master’s degrees or PhDs), we figured there’s no better way to honor our customers than by helping those who need financial assistance in following their dreams of a quality education.

The fully-paid program enables the selected students to obtain a degree in Computer Science, awarded by the prestigious University of Westminster, London, UK, through Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT), Sri Lanka. The program also provides a monthly allowance paid by WSO2 to meet daily expenses and mentoring by WSO2 employees throughout their school tenure.

We partnered with IIT and began the search for the perfect candidates in early August. We received many applications from students from all walks of life but had to narrow it down to four (for the four customers). We selected the students based on their financial need, educational qualifications, and extra-curricular activities.

After a lot of deliberation, we announced the selected candidates last week! Our Congratulations go out to

  • Negeesha Divyanjalee Katulanda selected for the BSc (Hons) Computer Science course
  • Piyumi Hansika Madhubani Gamage selected for the BSc (Hons) Computer Science course
  • Chanuka Abeysinghe selected for the BEng (Hons) Software Engineering course
  • Jayasanka Buddhika Weerasinghe selected for the BSc (Hons) Computer Science course

We wish you all the best!

Brigham Young University: Enabling API Discoverability and Data-driven Business Insights with WSO2

Brigham Young University (BYU) began their API Management story 2 years ago when they decided to adopt an API-first architecture that follows a governed process. With over 451 APIs for both external and internal customers, and several development teams working independently of one another, Brayden Winterton (Software Engineer at BYU) likens its management akin to running a small city.

Modernizing their API management was a result of a problematic system that existed at that time. For one, the API manager in existence was closed-sourced and used an old, unsupported third party code. Adding some confusion to the mix, BYU had two versions of their API infrastructure in production – having started with one version, developing a second version along the way and the migration process forever a work in progress. Due to a memory leak, boxes had to be rebooted nightly (if not all API traffic ceased by noon the next day). Furthermore, there was no monitoring of API usage and the documentation support was out of date. In short, BYU was in a “serious situation” to use Brayden’s exact phrase.

Faced with all these scenarios, BYU was looking to implement a new API management solution. A key need was to create a centralized repository for all the APIs at BYU, which enables developers to search for and find all the available APIs, in addition to the respective authorization processes. A seamless transition without drastic changes to their existing developer work was another one of their important requirements. Low latency, up-to-date documentation, integrating with legacy systems and the ability to keep track of all the APIs being utilized completed their wish list.

To implement their requirements, they turned to WSO2 API Manager and WSO2 Identity Server. BYU now has subscriptions that allow consumers to get through to the API and subsequent monitoring; they were able to integrate all legacy systems with message mediation, minimized latency even while mediating quite heavily and of course, it is all open source. The BYU model works on open subscription first, however there are instances where they have needed to block a subscription until further approval was granted. They have been able to do this with an open source platform. Another huge plus has been the ability to utilize industry standards and BYU even got something that was not available to them previously – monitoring and analytics to support their business decision making. Improving discoverability and keeping the documentation up to date were the last pending issues for BYU, ultimately solved by the BYU developer portal in the second stage of their implementation.

“Our developers who have migrated are having a fantastic experience. They’re able to use things in a standard way, able to find the documentation they are looking for, utilize libraries, things aren’t drastically different, all of their old systems are continuing to work and they are getting a lot better reliability out of what they’re trying,” says Brayden. Adding to this success, BYU has seen higher API consumption as of late and with the improvements in place, Brayden is excited about the future.

If you would like to listen to Brayden’s full presentation at WSO2Con USA, click here.

Learn more about the WSO2 API Manager and WSO2 Identity Server if you haven’t tried it out yet.

WSO2 Summit is Coming to New York!

There are only a few more days for WSO2 Summit New York 2017 and we’re taking the city by storm! Join us as we take you through a series of thought leadership sessions on creating and implementing a digital transformation strategy followed by an evening networking session. The event will be held September 27, 2017, at Park Central Hotel, New York from 1:00 p.m. onwards.

What’s more, our newly appointed WSO2 CEO Tyler Jewell will be attending the event, so not only will you be able to meet with our WSO2 experts but you can also discuss our future vision with him.

Here’s a brief intro to all the sessions that will take place:

Navigating the Digital Transformation Landscape

Dr. Sanjiva Weerawarana, Founder, Chairman & Chief Architect, WSO2

Digital businesses are reshaping the landscape of many industries with novel products, services, and business models. To thrive and remain competitive new businesses and established enterprises alike need to adapt both their technology strategies and core aspects of their cultures. In this session, Sanjiva will review cultural factors, technology requirements, and proven strategies for driving an effective digital transformation initiative.

Driving Digital Transformation Through Big Data Analytics and Machine Learning

Dinesh Lokhande, Distinguish Engineer – Software Development, Verizon,
and Prachi Govalkar, Senior DevOps Engineer, Verizon

Verizon’s big data and AI platform consume petabytes of data from multiple sources such as wireless networks, telematics and IoT and processes it in real-time to deliver actionable insights, predictions, and trends using the web portal and APIs to digital consumers. In this session, Dinesh and Prachi will discuss

  • Use cases for digital transformation strategies
  • Lessons learned, challenges faced and how they were addressed
  • A high-level architecture framework
  • How Verizon’s big data platform is embracing digital transformation

Architecting a Digital Enterprise

Mifan Careem, Senior Director of Solutions Architecture, WSO2

Digital transformation requires alignment between business and IT for it to be effective and workable. However, this is not the case in most organizations. Business and technical leads working on a digital transformation project realize the challenges of creating a digital workspace comprised of proper processes, systems, and an efficient and productive workforce. In this session, Mifan will explore the business and technical architectures of the digital enterprise; he will discuss the reference architecture for each of these and explain how they can be defined to build your digital platform.

Why WSO2 for Digital Transformation

Dr. Sanjiva Weerawarana, Founder, Chairman & Chief Architect, WSO2

In this session, Sanjiva will explore how the 100% open source WSO2 platform offers all the key technology enablers for digital transformation including API management, integration, identity and access management, analytics and IoT. With our products and support, you’ll be able to create and implement a digital transformation strategy that’s geared for success.

As the sessions come to a close, the networking event will be the perfect place for you to mingle with your peers, industry experts and of course our new and old CEOs.

Don’t miss out, request an invite!

Why I Joined WSO2

On Tuesday, it was announced that I joined WSO2 as its CEO. This is an exciting and proud moment as it creates an opportunity to work with the (almost 500) geniuses employed by WSO2 and to engage our customers, partners, and competitors that are collectively contributing to making the massive and growing middleware segment better.

I joined WSO2 because I was inspired by the challenge to help us become a #1 provider in a competitive and technically challenging market.

My first experience with middleware was in the 90s while working at BEA, now owned by Oracle. It was an amazing experience to witness BEA’s transformation from C-based platform (Tuxedo) into the Internet, Java and JavaEE leader with Weblogic. Scott Dietzen, then the BEA CTO and recently the CEO that put Pure Storage (NYSE: PSTG) through its IPO, lead BEA’s transformational efforts to create a strategy that leapfrogged BEA ahead of alternatives.

Due to:

  1. The rapid rise of cloud, and;
  2. Rapidly changing consumption models for developers with containers, microservices, serverless, and APIs, and;
  3. The rising complexity from streaming and analytics of real-time event-driven architectures attached to exabyte architectures connected to millions of systems, and;
  4. Corporate core competencies tied to an ability to transform data into insights with machine learning,

we are on the precipice of witnessing a new wave of cloud-scale, cloud-native middleware emerging that will be as significant as the C to JavaEE transformation we witnessed in the 90s. Scott’s achievements are personally inspiring and have no small influence on my choice to undertake this mission.

Leading WSO2 through this transformation is an ambitious, challenging, and exciting opportunity that is something worthy and respectful to the ridiculous talent we have already assembled.

I led Toba Capital’s first investment into WSO2 in 2011 and have been on its board since. Through that time, it became apparent that WSO2’s innovation engine was world class and repetitively produced intellectual property that was faster, easier, and safer superior to alternatives. These advancements are a reflection of WSO2’s internal culture of constant improvement combined with its advanced talent development with university rotations where we now have 132 people (27%) that have or are currently pursuing multiple degrees, master’s degrees, or PhDs.

The rate of innovation combined with an open source business model, customer-first experience, and all delivery functions (support, consulting, training) delivered directly by our engineers has let us establish meaningful relationships with 400 world-class enterprises that represent amazing cross-sections of the global economy managing 5 trillion transactions each year with our technology. Impressively, 25% of our customers come from financial services like BNY Mellon, Credit Agricole, HSBC, and BNP Paribas who have stressed our technology stack to meet expectations imposed by a dizzying array of regulations, security, and performance requirements.

In spite of these achievements, we are the lesser known vendor. While we have near zero churn with our customers who shout our praise and have us as their strategic platform, most describe WSO2 as ‘unknown’, which is a polite way to imply ‘misunderstood’. WSO2 has not conformed to mainstream positioning, go to market, and delivery and most regard us different.
This non-conformance creates tremendous advantages WSO2 passes along to our customers, but not fully appreciated by the rest of the market:

  1. Our team-based, non-commission approach to sales ensures that our customers are always first placed ahead of compensation or the company’s bottom line;
  2. Our 100% open source platform ensures broad community participation leading to better performance, stability, and advancement;
  3. Our delivery through our engineers ensures that customers engage with experts that can fix anything instead of working through layers of management and support abstractions delaying resolution and satisfaction;
  4. We have an efficient operating model that does not depend upon cash from investors, debtors, or the public markets giving us freedom to grow in ways beneficial to our customer’s interests;
  5. Our no-politics and open culture have lead to an industry low employee turnover and rich diversity with 33% female employees and 34% of our leadership positions are held by women.

My most recent venture was Codenvy, which we sold to Red Hat in June. The people at Codenvy made it special and transformed us to the #1 vendor in a highly competitive cloud IDE space. The Codenvy journey was one where we rode the container and cloud-native wave, as the marriage between container-services and hosted developer workspaces were a combination that allowed the growth of cloud IDEs to effectively compete with desktop alternatives pushed by JetBrains and Microsoft.

Containers and cloud-native concepts are redefining the consumption models for how developers work with and deploy middleware. These technologies are causing a middleware rethink, especially in a world where orchestrators like Kubernetes and chaos monkeys scale and destroy unpredictably while the system maintains constant resiliency. For many vendors, talking cloud-native is great marketing fodder, but overlook the reality that their platform will require a reset. Our competitors with proprietary licenses and huge cash burn will struggle to demonstrate true innovation in this space.

With WSO2, we’ve been building a new cloud-native technology stack. Our open source projects include Ballerina (a programming language for integration), MSF4J (a low RAM microservice framework), Carbon (an instant boot server framework), and Siddhi (a streaming SQL framework). Collectively, they are compelling building blocks to create cloud-native middleware for integration, API management, analytics, identity and access management, and IoT.

If you are container-first, serverless, microservices, cloud-native, or developer-first … or you are an enemy to mega cloud lock-in and proprietary business models, then we will demonstrate to you middleware services that can run in any cloud, outperform any vendor, provide rock-solid stability, and backed by our customer-first, engineer-delivered business model. Please engage our team and discover why we are a hidden gem in middleware.

With the amazing people at WSO2 as the backbone, we can and will do with WSO2’s transformation that BEA did with Java.
And for those reasons?—?the people, the challenge, the technology, and the fun?—?is why I joined WSO2.

Time for a CEO Change in WSO2

Getting ready to dance with Ballerina and more with Tyler taking the lead

It is my pleasure to announce that effective today, I have stepped down from my job as CEO of WSO2 and that Tyler Jewell will be taking over. Nope; I am not going anywhere?—?I will remain as Chief Architect and will also become Chairman of the Board. Tyler will be joining the board too, of course.

Tyler Jewell, CEO of WSO2

Tyler is no stranger to WSO2 — he first reached out to me via a cold-call email in November 2010 while he was head of investments in Quest Software. Quest went on to make a $4M investment in May 2011 and Tyler joined our board at the time. After Quest was acquired by Dell, Tyler left and went to Oracle as VP of Cloud and later returned to become a partner in Toba Capital, the VC firm set up by the ex-Quest Chairman Vinny Smith after he completed the acquisition. Tyler re-joined our board then. Later, Toba acquired Dell’s investments including the WSO2 shares and became a larger shareholder. In 2013, after we fought off an acquisition offer, Toba bought the shares of Intel Capital (our first investor) and other shares and ended up as the largest shareholder of WSO2. Tyler remained on our board throughout and was a key part of surviving that acquisition challenge!

In 2013, Tyler also founded Codenvy, became its CEO and built it to become the leader in cloud IDEs and developer workspaces as a service. In June this year, he sold the company to RedHat. After successfully completing the transaction, Tyler left RedHat in August.

Was bringing Tyler on board initiated by our shareholders?

No. I reached out to Tyler, convinced him, then the board members and finally the shareholders that this is the right thing for WSO2.

I am handing WSO2 over to Tyler because I believe that this is absolutely the right thing to do for WSO2 and all its stakeholders; i.e., shareholders, employees, partners and of course our customers.

Why?

Paul and I (along with a 3rd person who’s long gone) started WSO2 more than 12 years ago. We’ve had a pretty good run in these years?—?we now have a 5-product portfolio that offers a superb digital transformation platform, 400+ customers, 490 employees, a recurring revenue business that’s growing really well and one that will be profitable this year. Yes, profitable.

Oh and Dr. Paul’s back as CTO too, after finishing his Ph.D. in IoT Security.

So we’re doing ok. OK, so why now then?

We also have a few additional rocket ships we’re building. However, let me first focus on Ballerina?—?the new programming language we’re creating.

Ballerina will end integration as we know it. It will also dramatically simplify writing microservices. Importantly, it will end the reign of configuration-over-code in enterprise app development and will make code great again. Yeah it’s a big deal.
Ballerina is what I’ve been focusing on for the last year and more. While my Ph.D. was not in programming languages, I have a long history of working on languages and really enjoy the power language creation gives to shape how people think. Ballerina embodies everything that I’ve learned in my nearly 30 years of being in the IT industry and absolutely embodies what WSO2 has learned in the last 12 years of its existence. Yeah it’s serious shit.

Um, again, why?

While I’m pretty good in technical stuff (if I may say so myself ;-)), taking such a rocket ship and positioning it to the market, driving its evangelization and making it win in the marketplace is not where I know I’m the best in the world at. I also know that a lot of that needs to happen in the US, the land where technology trends are created.

OTOH, Tyler is incredibly good at that stuff. (He’s actually pretty damned good (maybe even incredibly good) at technical stuff too .. but he really is incredibly good at that stuff.) Ballerina and WSO2 deserve to have the best in the world guiding its market leadership vision, strategy, plan and execution.

This is absolutely not just about Ballerina either. We have several other rocket ships in our portfolio and more on the way. Plus, our entire portfolio of products really is simply a hell of a lot better than anything else to digitally transform an enterprise. Tyler will, of course, own that too and will help improve the positioning, packaging and marketing of our digital transformation story to get it to market domination status. In other words, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Tyler also understands that this is a massive long term opportunity that he’s taking on. We’re both not in a hurry?—?we have the legs and stamina to take on the market in a marathon and beat them.

That is why I’m leaving as CEO and giving control of WSO2 to Tyler.

What will I be doing?

I’m not going anywhere?—?I will be a having a ball putting 100% of my energy into my Chief Architect role, a title I gave myself a few years ago. In that role I will continue to nurture Ballerina and the rest of the WSO2 products’ overall design, architecture and scope.

At the board level I will be the chairman of the board as well.

Culture, values, Sri Lanka and all that kind of stuff

In the past twelve years I, and really all the people who’ve been part of the WSO2 journey, have built an awesome culture in WSO2 based on a set of core values that are all about doing the right thing for all stakeholders of our mission and oriented towards making the world a better place. Importantly, we’re also a culture that is always learning and always improving both at an individual level (for all involved) as well as at the company level.

It is silly to think that a change in CEO, especially the annoying, opinionated and (apparently, even though I don’t buy it) stubborn founding CEO, will not have some impact on how things will be done.

Culture is of course not a constant. Those of you have been subjected to my various preaching sessions in the last 12 years will remember this quote by Chamath Palihapitiya about culture that I’ve repeated often:

Fight for the culture the way it should be…not the way it was or the way it’s becoming.

So of course things will change, but will only change the way we all make it change.

. . .

I’ve always told people that if you want to be successful you must aim for the stars?—?and maybe you’ll at least land on the moon. The hard work of the last 12 years has us orbiting the moon, ready to slingshot off it and head for the stars.

As the founder of WSO2, I have always given it everything I had. I’m looking forward to continuing to do that and to “come home” to the technical world which I love, to help WSO2 slingshot off the moon and head for the stars.

. . .

It’s been a privilege and an honor to start a company and grow it from birth to a reasonable sized global business with operations in Sri Lanka, UK, US, and Brazil. I’ve learned a few things along the way (e.g., I’m finally able to read a P&L .. but not a balance sheet yet; it’s BS after all) and can safely say I lost no hair doing it.

I’m most thrilled, humbled and proud of the people I’ve worked with. There are so many people who’ve been here through the entire journey?—?basically never leaving after they joined. We have all grown, and not just in years, but in maturity, in smarts and just overall as human beings through the WSO2 journey.

Another aspect I’m very proud of is the more than 100 folks who’ve left WSO2 to go to graduate school. Of that, around 50 have now completed PhDs in Computer Science. I’m very bullish on people getting more and more education (and Ph.D. is hardly the end) and it’s great that so many have done that. And more are on the way?—?and many of the people who have worked in WSO2 for many years have earned PhDs of their own, even though we don’t call them doctor!

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has made the last 12+ years amazing, awesome and incredibly educational for me.

. . .

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling sad to give my baby over to someone else. From amongst all the people in the world, I believe Tyler Jewell will do a fantastic job taking this toddler and making it into a teenager!

So actually I’m not sad but excited instead. Excited at the potential we have in front of us. Excited by working with Tyler. Excited at the thought of having more time to be technical and write code again.

Exciting times ahead :-). Good luck Tyler!

Welcome Back Paul: Our old and new CTO!

Paul met Sanjiva back in 1998 (almost a lifetime ago for some!). Their shared vision for the future encouraged them to leave IBM and start up their own open source company — WSO2. They soon ramped up their first project, Apache Axis2, and became one of the most competitive middleware companies in the industry.

Paul has been with us for the most part of our journey but decided to take some time off to work on his Ph.D., something he had wanted to do for quite a while. He now comes back as Dr. Paul Fremantle, our newly reinstated CTO. “He is someone who will challenge you and expect you to challenge him back,” said Sanjiva. So we welcome you back with open arms and are looking forward to being challenged.

Here’s a little bit of what Paul has been doing over the last two and a half years. For his Ph.D. he focused on security for IoT devices. As he pointed out, we feel that buying a device gives us control over our data, but in reality, the control is with the companies that manufacture these devices. During his research and after going through a lot of painful mathematics, he was able to create a new architecture model, OAuthing, which

  • Provides a simple way for you to take ownership of the device through an improved federated identity approach for IoT
  • Creates an instance of the server that handles a device for each user (personal cloud middleware)
  • Enables pseudonymity by not having to share your identity by default

His research directly influenced the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and was even partly used in our own WSO2 IoT Server!

Even with all of this going on, he managed to pick up the hobby of making musical instruments and has now leveled up from crafting ukuleles to mandolins and guitars. He says his current pet project of making a violin (one of the hardest yet) is the complete opposite of software development. In software development, if you make a mistake you can easily learn from it, iterate and fix it. But the smallest mistake in violin-making means you have to start right from the beginning all over again!

“I’ve been trying to learn patience, but I can’t seem to learn it quick enough,” jokes Paul. Glad to have you back Paul. We all look forward to working with you again.