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Half-Baked or Mashed: Is Mixing Enterprise IT And The Internet A Recipe For Disaster?

Enterprise mashup tools are the long tail of SOA, letting ordinary employees build applications that aren't on IT's radar screen. But what about the risks?
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
While most apps on AppExchange are created by SaaS providers and vendors, other sites explicitly target end users as developers. Salesforce competitor LongJump, for example, is working on a hosted platform, still in closed beta, aimed at empowering nondevelopers to build applications. Like Microsoft's Popfly, LongJump isn't aimed just at intranets: Apps hosted on its platform can be shared publicly or offered for sale.

chart: When developing or purchasing a browser-based applicaton, how important is support for access via the following?
Serena Software has gone further than most SaaS vendors, aiming to compete with Coghead, IBM, and Kapow. Its Vail service is intended to fully integrate with an enterprise's own SOA or other Web services, connecting to them through secure links. Serena also offers a freely downloadable mashup development environment aimed at end users.

Using outsourced software to integrate internally hosted servers may seem unnecessary, but Serena argues that hosted services eventually will replace most internal servers. Whether or not you buy that, SOA and mashups definitely make it easier to mix hosted services with internal apps, so outsourcing the mashup server itself will make sense for some organizations.

Mashups can also be created without any server or service at all--although their roots on the Internet mean that most mashups are Web-based, there's no reason they have to be. For example, OpenSpan offers a mashup tool that runs locally on Windows PCs, meaning it can interface directly with native Windows applications. Instead of converting files to RSS feeds, it monitors how applications interact with Windows APIs and can also intercept them, giving it complete control of an application's user interface, I/O, and use of shared system resources.

GET READY
Before opening the door to mashup technologies, you need to make several important decisions, over and above the question of who'll develop applications.

  • IT needs to determine which data sources will be approved for mashing. Public Web sites and APIs like Google Maps are obvious picks, but the real value in an enterprise could come from combining these with intranet and extranet Web services.
  • Next, where will the mashing up happen? Though mashups are associated with browser-based applications, enterprises with SOAs have the option of server-based tools or desktop-centric integration software.
  • If you go with browser-based mashups, decide whether to host the new applications on an existing Web server, buy one of the new dedicated mashup platforms, or farm out the whole shebang.
  • Finally, there are a huge number of development platforms and tools, many of them free. Ajax's widespread browser compatibility makes it the obvious choice for most Internet apps, but this isn't an issue for intranet developers who can control their client's platform.
  • Impact Assessment: Mashups in the Enterprise

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    Photo by Sacha Lecca

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