There were a great many product announcements at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco last month, but it was the number of announcements around Web-based mashups in particular that received a large share of attendee and media attention. By my count there were at least nine significant announcements in this space, many around the business flavor of this emerging new type of ad hoc Web applications. These are often referred to as enterprise mashups and the growing number of offerings in this space run the gamut from Web widget assembly platforms for end-users to data-only swizzlers and remixing applications created specifically for IT professionals.
Penetration of mashups in the enterprise is just beginning as their benefits begin to be understood.One thing is now clear in this burgeoning new industry; that there is genuine interest in being a leading provider of enterprise mashup tools as organizations begin getting serious about applying them to make the development of Web-based business solutions faster, more commonplace, and less costly. One significant open question continues to be how long it will take for rapidly evolving mashup techniques to move into enterprises, which have been falling behind developments on the fast-pace of the consumer Web for a number of years now and are just now beginning to make inroads into some businesses.
And its a space that is expected to grow into a serious one in the next five years. A widely covered new report from Forrester estimates, however, that this space is expected to grow into a $700 million a year industry sector by 2013, or about 1% of the entire software industry, depending on how you define mashups and which types of tools are included.
For awareness and understanding of the fast-growing world of mashups are significant challenges as IT practitioners, business strategists, and software vendors attempt to grapple with what's facing up to be the biggest challenge of all: The habits and expectations of the larger part of a generation of workers who don't yet realize mashups are poised to change many things about the software landscape on the Web and in the workplace. Generational changes can be difficult for businesses to embrace successfully, and while evidence that mashups are remaking the business world are still very much emerging, they certainly hold the promise.
Figure 1: Mashup Tools and Platforms Circa 2008
However, the continued proliferation of high quality Web parts and open APIs, especially in the last couple of years, has offered compelling sourcing options for enterprise mashups is the making the expanding Global SOA compelling as local IT resources for building and improving business solutions. Combined with the consumer Web's intensive focus on ease-of-use to gain adoption, and this has paved the road for low barrier, low cost effective assembly of software mashups instead of the time consuming and expensive design and coding of largely new applications. In this sense, mashups are probably the next major new application development model as well an increasingly popular approach for achieving better ROI with service-oriented architecture (SOA).Mashup Standards Emerge: Read how a number of new mashup standards have appeared recently.
But while the life of the average Web developer has been greatly improved by the availability of a wide variety of useful open APIs, the average user of the Web hasn't been a direct beneficiary except through the increase in Web apps that are built on the mashup model. And that's because the tools that empower users to weave together existing Web parts and open APIs into the exact solutions they need are just now becoming easy enough and robust enough to readily enable these scenarios. And that doesn't include the variety of tooling and infrastructure that makes producing the source materials for mashups easier and cheaper. Those are just emerging as well and the activity in the mashup development platform space ranges from data swizzlers and and widget models to governance systems and deployment tools.
Latest Mashup Product Developments
A flurry of activity in this product space has happened in just the last couple of months to enable the many different aspects of mashups across the full spectrum of necessary capabilities and skills. In mid-2008, we're seeing now the first 2.0 versions of many existing offerings, offering increased maturity, stability, and robustness. Here are some of the larger developments in mashups recently, in alphabetical order by company:
DreamFace's new Mashup Kits are a set of mashup development tools that provide a way array of capabilities that includes a widget-based RIA mashup tool for Adobe Flex, a business intelligence mashup kit that "address[es] the needs of analytics, reporting, data warehousing and data integration to allow users a wide selection of ready to use charts, graphs and gauges to use to constitute personalized analytic dashboards", a security toolkit for linking to enterprise identity and authentication, and a metadata facility to support interoperability of with external applications and technologies.
Intel's Mash Maker is free browser extension that allows users to instantly change Web pages in place and remix them with information from different online sources. Its initial version, available now, works with Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 7, with the support for Firefox being more robust at this time. While not explicitly designed for the enterprise, the in-browser model for creating mashups is designed to be inherently viral and recombinant, allowing users to build on top of existing mashups that other users create. I spoke with Mash Maker Chief Architect Rob Ennals at Web 2.0 Expo and he indicated that they are still exploring the business model for this product, which may ultimately include advertising, which would be a significant departure from most commercial mashup tools.
Lotus Mashups is a new offering from IBM that builds on the experiences from their well-received experimental QEDWiki mashup tool and offers "a lightweight mashup environment for assembling personal, enterprise and Web content into simple, flexible, and dynamic applications." Like QEDWiki, Lotus mashups uses a browser-based environment to allows users to assemble application from widgets, create their own reusable and shareable widgets, and browse a centrally approved catalog of widget sources. In addition, IBM is offering MashupHub, a lightweight repository of "Web, departmental, personal and enterprise information" for use in business applications and mashups. MashupHub provides an interface for creating, managing, and remixing feeds to be utilized in what IBM calls situational applications, as well as a centralized catalog for users to share, rate, and tag mashup assets.
Mashery is a little known but compelling on-demand API infrastructure service that allows organizations to quickly create mashup-enabled information and data by wrapping an open API around it, which they host and manage. Mashery can help organizations rapidly offer scalable APIs with "security, usage, access management, tracking, metrics, commerce, performance optimization and developer community tools." Mashery has reported rapid growth recently and innovative client wins including a new API for Whitepages.com.
Mindtouch is primarily known as a wiki company with an aggregation focus, but their new "Itasca" product moves them definitely into the mashup space. And as IBM's QEDWiki demonstrated, the wiki makes a good canvas for mashups with automated version control and a familiar usage model that the ordinary user can readily understand. Itasca allows user to combine "components and applications from across the Web––with access to hundreds of services from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and others."
Kapow's OnDemand is a new service from one of the original data mashup pioneers. A hosted data mashup sevice, OnDemand has an enterprise focus for those that need rapid access to data from a variety of Web-based sources either in feed form or even in page form. One of the key outputs of OnDemand is live delivery of business data feeds into a spreadsheet, something that a number of mashups tools provide since spreadsheets are the other existing data mashup tool that most users have today. The significance of this product is that it can be entirely self-service from pulling together, remixing, transforming, and updating many different types of Web services, content and others, a sort of enterprise-class Yahoo! Pipes.
Serena's Mashup Exchange highlights an increasingly important feature of mashup platforms, such as JackBe's Presto and IBM's MashupHub, namely the need to maintain updated directories of available software mashups created by other end-users or IT as well as the mashup parts that are ready for incorporation into new business solutions. Mashup Exchange is actually an open version of this sort of directory and is live today, offering a "marketplace where you can get packaged Mashups" and existing Web services. Mashups can make reuse, both at a Web service level as a well as the application level, a reality and offerings like Mashup Exchange offer the leverage to delivery on the ROI that mashups can theoretically provide.
SnapLogic's latest version of their data mashup tool has been "thoroughly re-architected and optimized" and provides a mashup form of real-time enterprise load and transformation (ETL) tool that provides the output data in forms that mashups can easily consume, generated by modules called pipelines. The new version also offers support for SnapLogic components written in Java and Python. Pipelines can offer data in HTML, XML, and the increasingly popular JSON format. SnapLogic has also an updated version of the Web-based designer, a drag-and-drop tool for designing, inspecting, and running data mashups.
Combined with my most recent round-up of the various mashup platforms available and the choices certainly abound for those looking for the benefits the mashups can provide. Even better, many of the issues that have been holding mashups back are beginning to be resolved including from an immature sevices landscape, assembly models, management, governance, and more. However, penetration of mashups in the enterprise is just beginning as their benefits begin to be understood and we're collecting success stories that we'll start sharing here as they unfold.
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