Mashups from Mars, SOAs from Venus?

Enterprise mashups are likley to be far less freewheeling than Web 2.0 mashups.

In recent posts, I spoke of the SOA-open source-Web 2.0 conglomeration, a whirling dervish that is provoking a range of reactions across the industry, from eye rolls to wide-eyed fascination. The mashup of applications above service-oriented architectures seems to have legs, and IBM's Bob Zurek coined the phenomenon as Enterprise Mashup Services, or EMS. In EMS, "companies will combine information from enterprise search engines, Web services, messaging systems, business intelligence engines and data integration solutions and combine that information from external services from their partners and emerging external data sources to deliver the information up to the glass," Zurek said.

But how much convergence are we likely to see in the near future between SOA and Web 2.0 mashups? ZapThink's Jason Bloomberg has added some of his fine-grained thinking to the concept, pointing to issues that separate SOA from Web 2.0 mashups, and everything else swirling around in today's cyber stew. The potential of enterprise mashups is enormous, but we'll have to wait and see.

"Are mashups the result of bringing SOA to the Web 2.0 party?" Bloomberg asks. "Mashups bear a more-than-passing resemblance to the Service-oriented composite applications ZapThink frequently speaks about -- known in analyst-speak as Service-Oriented Business Applications, or SOBAs."

Bloomberg notes that SOA provides the loose coupling between the providers and consumers of services. "The last thing a business wants is to leverage mashups for a core business purpose, only to find that they fail capriciously depending upon the whims of the creators of the underlying services. Mashups that meet business needs, therefore, will require SOA, and the SOA infrastructure necessary to guarantee loose coupling. Without that loose coupling, mashups are little more than toys from the enterprise perspective."

Bloomberg also speculates that some Service-Oriented Business Applications (SOBAs) are "the result of bringing Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) and other Web 2.0-related technologies to the enterprise's efforts with SOA."

However, Bloomberg cautions that there are "there are several mitigating forces that may limit the 'SOBA as enterprise mashup' equation":

  • Many SOBAs will consist of standard desktop applications, such as spreadsheets and accounting packages."Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) built with Web 2.0 technologies like AJAX are only one set of interface options... mashups will be at most only a part of the SOBA consumer story."
  • Mashups are still mainly a "techie" thing. "Creating mashups is still out of reach of most businesspeople, even reasonably technically savvy ones. Of course, this situation will likely change as mashup tools mature."
  • SOBAs require governance. "No business would risk allowing any of its employees to assemble and reassemble business processes willy nilly, with no controls in place to ensure that the resulting SOBAs followed corporate policies. Today's mashups are inherently ungoverned -- that's what makes them so appealing to techies."

Bloomberg does see a middle ground evolving to make enterprise mashups more of a reality. However, such mashups will fall into the more disciplined framework that SOA will occupy. "The more governed an enterprise mashup becomes, the less like a Web 2.0-style mashup it'll be," Bloomberg says.

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