Consumer Pedigree Aside, Mashups Increasingly Attractive to Business

Carl Weinschenk

Mashups are best illustrated via simple example. Suppose a salesperson has to visit five sites. A mashup could combine information from map sites suggesting the best itinerary and directions and find salient information about the companies from elsewhere. A recent podcast featuring a decision maker from one of the target companies could be included. If the person is combining the trip with a family vacation, the mashup could include theme park information and video from prospective hotels to ensure they are not too stodgy for the kids.


This clearly is a potent tool. However, according to Network Computing, IT departments remain reluctant to allow non-IT employees to create their own mashups. Less than half of the respondents to a survey accompanying the story are thinking of enabling workers to create their own mashups. The author points out that mashups are powerful tools for employees even if they have no power to change settings to their PCs in their creation. The bulk of the feature looks at issues surrounding the complex world of enterprise mashups.


Dave Berlind provides a worthwhile service in this ZDNet blog by precisely describing what a mashup is and discussing tools that are making it more valuable for the enterprise. A mashup, simply, is a Web-based application that gets its functionality and/or its data from more than one source via application programming interfaces (APIs). These sources often are other Web sites.


Companies such as BEA and IBM offer registries of "reusable consumables" that can be used in a mashup. Berlind says that as enterprise mashups grow, the proportion of "consumables" -- functionality available on the Web -- available in any particular registry becomes proportionately less.


Berlind describes one potential answer to this issue. The programmableweb.com is a catalog of available mashups, APIs and consumables. A second emerging tool, OpenSearch, can more smoothly combine assets that are behind corporate firewalls with those found through such an outside source. The blog links to a mashup of Berlind's own describing a recently announced agreement between IBM and programmableweb.com.


A speaker at the Gartner Web Innovation Summit 2007 late last month concurred that the key use of enterprise mashups by enterprises is the ability to obtain, combine and use information from multiple sources in real time. Gartner says that 30 percent of enterprises will use the platform during the next year and that IBM is the most active of established companies in the enterprise mashup sector. New players to watch include Xignite, Kapow and JackBe.


Computerworld offers a good example of how mashups can be used. BP America sought a way to get the lowdown on its assets -- such as drilling equipment and pipelines -- more quickly after the experiences of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The result is a mashup linking maps and geospatial data with company data to produce a visual representation of the status of its gear in the Gulf of Mexico. The mashup uses outside sources such as Microsoft's Visual Earth, Web-based weather feeds and commercial satellite imagery. It also links to the company's People Software human resource software. This will help the company provide aid to workers in heavily damaged areas, the story says.


Mashups seem to be growing in popularity. For instance, late last week CBS introduced EyeLab, which will facilitate the creation of video mashups. From the network's point of view, mashups will result in more viral marketing for the company. The takeaway here is simply that enterprises should be thinking about the concept. They also should be thinking about possible obstacles, one of which was pointed out this summer by IT Business Edge's Loraine Lawson.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Oct 2, 2007 6:34 PM Kelly Shaw Kelly Shaw  says:
IT's reluctance is understandable. If they allow just anyone to mash content, then who provides support? Whom do these mashers call when things go wrong? How can all-important back-end systems be protected yet still made available for mashups?IT's reluctance is not going to be an issue, however, because users from the business side of an organization will simply work around IT. Tools such as Google's Mashup Editor and Yahoo! Pipes may be for IT, but there are many tools being developed now that allow anyone, not just IT, to mash content.Kapow's RoboMaker, Intel's Mash Maker and Serena's Mashup Composer are all tools aimed at users that have some technical savvy, but are not in IT. Importantly, all of these tools offer a cloud-based option so IT won't even know that mashups are happening. RoboMaker and Mash Maker both use screen scraping technology to grab content, and Mashup Composer allows this content to be wrapped in BPM-like process to solve real business problems.So while IT's concerns are valid, they aren't going to matter long-term as business users take matters into their own hands.Kelly A. Shaw, Ph.D.Strategic AnalystSerena Software Reply

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