Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why websphere commerce developers don't want to be "websphere commerce developers"

I've been doing websphere commerce development now for 2 years. If you aren't familiar with IBM's product, it's basically what it says, an commerce platform. This article isn't about the technical strengths or weakness of the platform, it's about why developers who implement it don't want to be known for doing so, myself being one of them. I am not speaking for anyone, but these are my observations.

First, the platform is very capable and therefore complex. Complex systems when changed frequently and are customized continuously will fail and have more errors than a less complex and less frequently customized system. This failure and being error prone is a turn off for smart people because it makes them look bad. Looks bad to your managers and your technical peers might eye you differently.

Next, implementation and customization of a platform is not glamourous. Someone else has the glory of writing the core application, and us, the implementors, are just working on top of this and customizing for our needs. The issue is that "real" companies would implement their own platform rather than making use of another because, of course, the users of software are always smarter than those that right it (sarcasm). Most developers would rather have their employers allow them to bottom out and waste time writing something from scratch verses using something that already exists.

Websphere equals Java, and Java is heavy, slow and again, not glamourous anymore. You have to compile code, there are all types of layers in the application, then deploy, etc. There are enterprise concepts built into the stack. Application layers are boring. The application management of websphere are also IBM branded. Eclipse, tomcat, apache, etc. They are all twisted for websphere rather than leaving pure. This means special tooling to do development as well that is likely licensed and costs money. It also requires a lot of machine resources as well to run the server and development tools. Server resources for production systems are expense, and large scale.

Nobody talks about websphere in the open community. The web growth and innovation stories don't speak of this platform. They won't be talking about it at any O'Reilly conferences. Amazon isn't going to use it. Google checkout isn't going to use it. Ebay isn't going to use it. Because of this, the core web innovators of commerce aren't pushing the limits of websphere commerce to make it better. They aren't releasing their own products either, but it begs a comparison. Technical people don't like this. It's fun to read about the stack and tools you are using. How are they being used at other companies? How are those companies giving back?

So why are websphere commerce developers still websphere commerce developers? Big companies implement this platform, meaning you get to work on major retail sites that you can tell your mom, dad and friends to check out the site you've worked on. It also pays pretty good and not everyone is good at it, so I think the role is in demand. It's also still mostly web work, meaning you can still work in different areas while trapped in the Java / IBM stack (performance, HCI, information architecture, search, etc). There is plenty of infrastructure work as well, scripting and automation. Many distributed and scalable architectures are at work. You learn many things beyond your direct role, and most technical people like that.

Why do I do it? It's the web and I am still learning. Plus places like Google, Twitter, Amazon, etc, won't hire me. What would pull me away? Something more glamorous that enables me to learn, and pays my bills.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately you can say this about any packaged software vendor (SAP, Microsoft, Oracle). If you want to do something next new, join a startup.

BTW, when googling WCS, you show up

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