Friday, July 6, 2007

Thoughts on enterprise mashups...

Are mashups good for enterprise integration? Do enterprises need mashups?

There is a real danger in thinking of mashups as just another tool in the enterprise IT integration mess. What I mean is that Web services have loss a great deal of their simplicity as they moved quickly to help solve enterprisey issues (read as mainly non-functional attributes), e.g., SLAs, reliability, scalable data and event sharing, transactions, some aspects of security, and so on... Entered, the so-called WS-* set of standards.

So far (as far as I know) very few enterprises actually use WS-* to re-engineer or implement their enterprise IT systems. The complexity of the "standards" is one of the main factors to this lack of success. Instead, I believe that enterprises still rely on tried and true and proven technologies such as relational DBs, message queuing systems, and so on, and expose simpler Web services or Web APIs at the edges for integration. For instance, Atom or RSS data services and REST services when business processes need to be exposed.

I fear that the same complexity tar pit will engulf mashups if we rush and attempt to try to make them the next "silver bullet" for enterprise integration...

Mashups have a place in the enterprise but in my view it's rather limited and is related to the more social and community aspects of enterprises (internally and with external companies and events). Stefan Tai's (IBM T.J. Watson) service community research project was the first to hint at this trend.

Mashups can be a great edge integration technology for enterprise services, whereby most of the complexity-prone non-functional attributes (other than security) are not directly addressed by mashups and instead provided by and relied on by the lower-level enterprise software stack, which have (slowly) addressed these non-functional issues over time.

Finally, on a grander scale this edge integration thought is happening *now* for small-to-medium enterprises and also is becoming more relevant as back-end enterprise systems are hosted by large services in the cloud, a la and Amazon Web services. When these hosted services become mainstream then mashups and associated technologies may become the glue for software innovations at companies small, medium, or large.

Let us resist the dark side and not let mashups and associated technologies become the next WS-death *

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