3 min read

Put to the Test: IBM Mashup Center 1.1

Despite a few loose ends, Big Blue's comprehensive Web 2.0 integration environment helps enterprise IT shops create secure and reliable data feeds, widgets and mashup apps.
The User's End: Lotus Mashups

Once feeds and data mashups are available, they can be handed-off to IBM Lotus Mashups and the Lotus Mashup Editor, another browser-based tool that is (for the most part) intended as a mashup application assembly tool. With a little practice and guidance, end-users can operate this GUI to create ad-hoc mashup applications, which IBM likes to call "situational applications." This is D-I-Y for data-savvy people. They don't need to be database specialists, but they do need to understand how data can be presented. This isn't too restrictive; most people who can use a popular DBMS such as Microsoft Access can handle it, as could many Microsoft Excel users.

IBM Mashup Center ships with a number of ready-to-use business widgets (substantially augmented in version 1.1) including a timeline widget, a new charting widget, and an Open Street Map widget. The functionality and reliability of widgets is what makes "user programming" possible in these apps; and IBM has done a very good job in overcoming the biggest hurdle -- what it calls "the wiring" -- of the data exchange between widgets and their data sources. New in this version, Lotus Mashups also takes the work out of embedding mashup pages or widgets into any HTML Web page.

Rapid Widgets

Given the importance of widgets, it's not surprising that the IBM Lotus Widget Factory is included in the Mashup Center. This Eclipse SDK-based environment is intended for application programmers (or mashup specialists) to efficiently produce consistent, production-ready widgets. These widgets can be used in much the same way as portlets, though the widgets can be written in any language (HTML, AJAX, etc.) whereas IBM portlets use an industry standard set of APIs. Widgets built in the Widget Factory run in both Lotus Mashups (IBM Mashup Center) or in Lotus Notes 8.0.

Will enterprise IT shops find comfort in IBM Mashup Center? With certainty if they're already an IBM shop. This is important because even IBM shops have been somewhat reluctant to incorporate mashups in mission-critical software. Is Mashup Center that much better or different than competitors, such that non-IBM shops will choose it? That's a more difficult question. In some cases, products from mashup specialists such as Kapow, JackBe and Serena have an edge in specific elements of mashup technology. However, none of them can offer IBM's broad and flexible cast of supporting software. So though IBM is still integrating a few elements into IBM Mashup Center, it's not hard to argue that this is the most comprehensive and, in many ways, most effective mashup environment for the enterprise.

IBM Mashup Center 1.1
Platforms: Linux 5 (Red Hat), Windows Server 2003 SP 1
Browsers Supported: Firefox 2.0, 3.0; MS Internet Explorer 6, 7; Safari 3.1
Pricing: IBM Mashup Center, 20 users: $2,600; Mashup Center Processor Value (server license per CPU) $440.