Mashups Take on the Enterprise

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After the success in the consumer space, the adoption of mashups — Web applications that combine data from multiple sources into a single integrated tool — in corporate enterprises has taken off.

According to Forrester Research, businesspeople who are accustomed to using Web 2.0 and social computing technologies at home are leveraging tools on the Internet to drive the same capabilities at work.

Whether they use tools designed for Internet-based amateur mashups or those by IBM or competing vendors, those in many corporate functions seek to merge CRM (customer relationship management), ERP (enterprise resource planning) or even less sophisticated Excel spreadsheets and flat files with disparate data sources for more efficiency and speed in meeting the expectations of their roles within the organization.

Forrester projects that in the next five years, vendors will be raking in $700 million in the sales of mashup platforms. Those already in the space likely represent only the first wave of marketers.
 
“Business users can create financial mashups that combine stock-ticker data with news feeds and other market data, or they can combine contact information from Salesforce.com with invoices from their billing applications,” said Mike Gualtieri, senior analyst at Forrester. “Mashups are the product of a little creative effort on the part of business users — not the product of a lot of technical heavy lifting on the part of IT professionals.”

Forrester defines three basic types of enterprise mashups: those that present once-siloed data in a single format or environment; those that add context to the marriage of two data streams, creating new learning opportunities and facilitating intelligent reporting; and those that merge not only data but business processes.

JackBe Corp., Kapow Technologies and Serena Software join IBM’s Mashup Center and WebSphere sMash — a development environment specifically for legitimate developers — with services for the enterprise. IBM courts both the IT professional and the nontechnical business user.

“Business users who see the data in an undesirable format have to be able to do more than just stare at it,” Gualtieri wrote in his report, “Enterprise Mashups: Lead, Don’t Follow.”

“They need to recognize that, using the tools provided by the mashup composer, they can massage the data into the format that they need,” Gualtieri said. “Developers often take for granted the concept of a key field that links one set of data to another, but this can be a very confusing idea for business users.”

Not only are the technical experts responsible for aiding business users in becoming effective part-time developers, but IT administration carries the burden of ensuring data collected by mashup tools meets corporate governance guidelines.

“Mashups in the enterprise are a step closer to providing business users with the ability to develop simple do-it-yourself [DIY] Web applications that take advantage of the services in SOA environments and on the Internet,” Gualtieri said. “Mashup tools will morph into DIY Web application development tools for business users.”
 
Corporate adoption of specific mashup tools and tactics may be the simplest solution for staying inside boundaries set by legislation. IBM’s Mashup Center allows anyone in the organization to create a mashup through drag-and-drop functionality. Users identify components from personal, enterprise and Web sources to customize new Web applications. Seamlessly incorporated into the tool are measures that ensure compliance with management, security and governance standards dictated by the organization’s IT department.

For the less creative mashup-maker who still craves a way to link CRM data with a field rep’s travel schedule, the tool offers a host of ready-to-use widgets and a catalog useful in finding and sharing more widgets.

“The market for these products is still immature,” Gualtieri said. “As in any immature market, you should expect that the platform you use now may be obsolete in a few years.”

Kelly Shermach is a freelance writer based in Chicago, Ill., who frequently writes about technology and data security. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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