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Making Corporate Data As Accessible As A Blog

One of the more compelling product pitches I heard at Interop today came from a low-profile developer of software components called /n Software. Got lots of corporate data built up that your knowledge workers can't find or access? Need a lightweight, low-impact way to disseminate data from various systems internally or to partners?
One of the more compelling product pitches I heard at Interop today came from a low-profile developer of software components called /n Software. Got lots of corporate data built up that your knowledge workers can't find or access? Need a lightweight, low-impact way to disseminate data from various systems internally or to partners?/n Software's answer to those problems may not be too surprising: use Web services. But the specific approach is a bit unexpected: use RSS, the somewhat techie content syndication technology that's best known as a way to efficiently scrape news and information off frequently updated Web sites or blogs.

The company's CEO, Gent Hito, suggests a new spin on Really Simple Syndication -- Really Simple Services. "Web services should be as simple to access and consume as the phone book," he says. "Company data isn't necessarily lost in Excel or FileMaker Pro databases, but people are trying to do work without waiting for IT. You can use RSS to get to any kind of data."

The RSSBus uses RSS to pull data from corporate information stores -- say customer databases -- then present it to the user in their preferred format, be it spreadsheet, HTML document, or within an RSS reader. The company's strategy is centered more on simple Web services than it is on RSS, he notes. In fact, dating back to the early '90s as a college student, Hito says he's been focused on the issue of making data easily accessible.

The company has written a wide range of "connectors" that let it tap into Access databases, Excel spreadsheets, SQL databases, and more. It's working on connectors for SAP and Cognos, but Hito says he doesn't see lightweight Web services supplanting high-end middleware packages that tie into transactional systems, for example.

The product is in beta but Hito said none of the testers are ready to discuss their work. So while it's promising, it's yet to be seen whether IT organizations and power users will embrace RSS as a means to get at more of that locked-up corporate data.

There are other hurdles. RSS, while widely available on virtually all Web sites, is used by only a fraction of the Web audience and, one could argue, not yet widely understood. It could take truly progressive companies to see the value in this software.

I'll check in with /n Software in the future when it's got customers who are prepared to discuss their experiences.