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Web 2.0 resume app leverages SOA, Rails, cloud computing

Startup founded by former webMethods execs provides online multi-media resumes using Ajax applications built with Ruby on Rails and running in the computing cloud from Amazon.com.

This is not your father's curriculum vitae.

VisualCV Inc., a startup with a service-oriented architecture (SOA) philosophy provided by alums from webMethods, is creating an online multimedia resume portal service utilizing cloud computing from Amazon.com.

At VisualCV.com, job seekers can create resumes with all the text of the old school paper versions, but also add YouTube-style video clips, MP3 and other audio formats, and links to Word, PDF, and PowerPoint files, explains Scott Herman, vice president of product management at VisualCV, and former CIO of webMethods Inc. He is one of the webMethods alums who followed their leader Phillip Merrick, who is now VisualCV co-founder and chairman, and who was chairman and CEO of webMethods, which he co-founded in 1998, and that was sold to Software AG last year.

The webMethods alums are providing SOA DNA for the project which features an Ajax interface for end users and is built primarily with Ruby on Rails.

"The reason we built it with Ruby on Rails is we wanted to have the very strong Ajax interaction," Herman said. "It's not just that the users create and own all the content. It really is a portal builder for a non-technical user. So we really had to have our act together in terms of how the user interface works with very heavy Ajax."

By the definition webMethods used, he said VisualCV (CV for curriculum vitae), which was launched in February, is "not yet" a full-blown SOA implementation.

"Coming from a webMethods background I have a bias around what SOA is," Herman explained. "If you look at our architecture, it's a bottom of the spectrum lightweight thing. We're not using an enterprise service bus for messaging within our application. Right now it is Ruby on Rails running on a suite of Mongrel servers with interaction among the Mongrel servers, but we're not running on an enterprise service bus using a common dictionary and set of schemas to talk back and forth to each other."

A more fleshed-out SOA with a governance platform coming this summer will be built out as the startup grows, he said.

Amazon Web Services and cloud computing
In what he prefers to call a distributed Web services architecture, VisualCV is using the MediaPlug on-demand service from Intridea Inc., which is designed to allow developers to transcode and store complex media files using Amazon Web Services (AWS). The newest version of MediaPlug, released this past week, has been transformed from a Web service utilizing the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) to a fully self-contained Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) media appliance server, capable of handling very high volumes of rich media, according to Intridea.

"Obviously the multimedia component of this experience is very important to making VisualCV different than an old school paper resume," Herman said. "We're using MediaPlug for the transcoding and uploading and interaction with Amazon S3 throughout the site."

Herman is also cautious about using Web 2.0 to describe VisualCV. "Web 2.0 is such a squirmy term, totally overused from a marketing perspective," he said. But he acknowledges that there are aspects of Web 2.0 in what the new company is doing.

"There are a lot of aspects of Web 2.0, such as the fact that our users create and own all the content on the site," he said. "We don't have a big data center where we're spreading Web services around on the Web. So there are several aspects from a technical perspective and a philosophical perspective that put us in the Web 2.0 world."

As a start-up, the ability to get inexpensive computing power from the Amazon cloud that can handle all the video, audio and graphic files users want to attached to their resumes, is a plus since it saves VisualCV from having to invest in hardware servers. Amazon S3 also provides privacy protection so an executive's video resume does not show up in a YouTube search, which could prove embarrassing to say the least.

The VisualCV system allows end users to apply different levels of confidentiality to their online bios, Herman explained. They can have a very public Facebook-type bio or they can do targeted resumes for specific types of jobs that are protected so that only authorized headhunters or hiring managers can access them.

"We provide different privacy settings," Herman said. "Very granular privacy settings for people to control. What's important to understand is about our interaction with Amazon is that because these files can be very private, we have a privacy model and a file management model that allows us to keep the file on Amazon, but also protect it. We serve as the broker or gateway for controlling permissions to access files."

Future SOA governance plans
As VisualCV progresses down the SOA road, providing governance is the next step scheduled to be undertaken this summer, Herman said.

"We're not running a governance platform at this point," Herman said. "That's mostly because we're still small enough that a lot of our management can be done by keeping track of the known suite of services that we have spread across our architecture."

Governance is important in the VisualCV business plan because the end users will get the service for free and the company plans to make money by providing it as a service for search firms as well as corporations that want to use it for internal talent management applications, he said.

"Our monetization model is building VisualCV communities and private labeling them for other companies to take and brand as their own," Herman explained. "So we're going to need a way of governing Web services to allow all these communities to interact with each other, yet still allow local autonomy and ownership by companies that buy them. One of the things we're looking at this summer is what does that mean in terms of larger SOA governance? So governance is something that's going to be a big deal for us.

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