Over the lifetime of this blog I've often written about using the latest Web-based software and tools to accomplish things on a completely different timescale than has been possible previously. Things like Ruby on Rails, mashups, syndication, and other lightweight software and service models seem to be changing the rules of the game out on the Web. What used to cost thousands to develop, now only costs hundreds, what took 5-10 people now only takes one or two. Many of these trends appear to be successfully optmizing for one all important variable in an increasingly time-challenged world; ease of development and consumption.
Unfortunately, most of these trends have been happening out on the Web and not in our enterprises. Until just recently that is. More and more, we are beginning to see tools that directly support these same dramatic improvements in productivity and convenience and which are aimed directly at the enterprise.
As part of an increasing product focus of this blog, something made possible by the actual emergence of capable Web 2.0 products for the enterprise, we'll be taking take a look as often as possible at the latest crop of innovative -- or just plain interesting -- new Web 2.0 tools for the enterprise. The common theme: Applying what seems to be most successful on the Web today inside the enterprise, a transplantation that is only possible by carefully and judiciously adding a critical element: enterprise context in the form of security, governance, standards-compliance, etc.
Our latest in-depth look will be Enterprise Web 2.0 up-and-comer, JackBe. At last week's AjaxWorld Conference and Expo, I had a chance to listen to JackBe's Dan Malks and Deepak Alur, two renowned ex-Sun engineers, announce one of the more intriguing new products in this space, JackBe's Presto. Presto is an ambitous and capable foray into the world of Ajax-powered enterprise mashups and lightweight, pragmatic SOA, with a nice user-powered Web 2.0 focus. The goal: To provide an enterprise environment so easy, that it can allow just about anyone -- specifically including end-users -- to create software they need for a given situation, which has given rise to the term situational software.
In enterprise software world envisioned by JackBe, end-users and developers alike can have equal access to the vast landscape of powerful services that are increasingly springing up behind the firewall in most organizations in the form of service-oriented architecture. The aim is to provide powerful, very easy-to-use tools that allow new applications to be assembled from the rich inventory of functionality and data that previously required dedicated software projects, along with the obligatory project managers, developers, and testers, and end-user representatives in order to access and reuse.
JackBe calls Presto a REA platform, which standards for Rich Enterprise Applications, a nod to the fact that Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) by themselves work terrifically on the Web, but are missing key elements needed to work well in the enterprise. This includes the ability to access enterprise-class services in the form of SOAP, WS-*, legacy systems, back-end databases, or provide a consist set of policies, management, and administration.
How Presto Adds Enterprise Context to Mashups
Presto provides a trio of key components that neatly separates the problem of how to build compelling Ajax applications that automatically have the expected enterprise capabilities, all without developers -- many of which will be end-users -- having to know how to "color inside the lines."
Given that most Ajax applications inside the enterprise will be de facto "mashups" because of their use of more than one Web services, Presto provides a clean, consistent way for browser-based Ajax applications to use a variety of enterprise services, many of which may or may not have varying levels of compliance with local SOA standards. Called the Ajax Service Bus, this component provides a simple layer that provides service "dial-tone" for Presto-based applications that is compliant with enterprise governance policies.
The actual mechanism that provides governance is the the 2nd key piece of the Presto framework, the Enterprise Service Director which "mediates and governs all communication between application and SOA services. Enforces strict authentication and authorization SOA consumption policies." Governance is one of the top issues in SOA these days and Presto provides advanced, and more important, largely automatic governance of services provided to developers and end-users.
The last critical element of Presto's enterprise context is its Enterprise Mashup Server, a component that reveals a key reality of mashups; that many mashups are better of performing much of the actual data and service 'swizzling' behind the scenes, outside the browser and on the server. Providing a consistent way of building recombinant new enterprise services out of pre-existing services is another way that JackBe appears to have pushed the state-of-the-art further, primarily by moving the key ease-of-use factor into the realm of service composition as well. Offering mashup creators leverage the full mashup typology and decide for themselves where to put mashup functionality -- either in the browser or on the server -- provides essential flexibility and increases the potential for service reuse.
Software Development by Developers or End-Users
The browser is the place that users are increasingly becoming comfortable composing their own Web pages made of badges, widgets, feeds, and so on and Presto provides an entirely browser-based end-user IDE as well as professional Eclipse-based IDE for traditional devlopers to use for projects that warrant a more disciplined approach. Both products allow SOA administrators to use the Enterprise Service Director to make sure developers, end-user or professional, comply with policies and governance guidelines.
While it's hard to be critical of service I haven't used extensively yet, JackBe is one of the best examples today of providing rich, Web 2.0-era platform for the enterprise. We'll continue taking some examinations of the product as more of it becomes available to use so stay tuned for more soon.
For more enterprise mashup tools, read my recent round-up of eight great mashup tools
Note: I made sure my diagram of Presto above included the fact that leveraging Web services out on the Web's service ecosystem will become increasingly important in the enterprise. This fact will only make governance absolutely critical as data flows in and out of the enterprise to remote suppliers. Being able to incorporate external services like this securely in a highly agile fashion will increasingly become a competitive advantage. And like many software advances, not having to build all the plumbing and infrastructure by hand before solving the business problem will increase your project's success, reduce risk, and cut costs.
Next up for tomorrow: A major new release of one of the best entirely Web-based mashup tools currently available...