What's the difference between enterprise mashups and the rapid application development (RAD) tools that we saw emerge in the 1990s? Is there anything really that new or unique about enterprise mashups?
Rapid application development (RAD) tools brought lighter, smarter development in the 1990s. Now, mashups bridge RAD to SOA.
Michael Ogrinz, author of Mashup Patterns: Designs and Examples for the Modern Enterprise, tackled this question over at TechTarget, observing that enterprise mashups now "serve as a bridging technology between the 'old RAD world' of the 90's and SOAs."
RAD tools revolutionized the way many applications were built, enabling developers to quickly churn out lightweight applications, especially for desktop environments. RAD, based on dragging-and-dropping rather than coding, started with Visual Basic, followed by tools such as PowerBuilder and Borland Delphi.
However, Ogrinz observes, as the world shifted to SOA and Web-based applications, "we lost the 'R' in RAD. Architectures became more complicated as the industry embraced products like J2EE servers and ESBs."
Enterprise mashups bring back the capabilities to quickly build new services that can access data and applications from the back end. There's even an additional twist -- non-technical end users can create their own solutions in many cases. I like the analogy Ogrinz provides to describe the way mashups have changed the equation:
"RAD in the 90's consisted of IT going door-to-door to build solutions for the business. Later, with SOAs, IT built internal services and then assembled them to meet specific use cases. It's almost like we were carpenters and if someone wanted a bookcase we'd go into their house, ask what they wanted, and then build it for them. Today, we can be more like Home Depot. Enterprise services are the lumber, nails, paint while Mashup products are the tools that pull them together. We still have general contractors (our existing IT staff) but we also have plenty of do-it-yourselfers in the form of non-technical business users. Self-serve IT seems poised for explosive growth."