Boom in Enterprise Mashups Offers Opportunity for Developers

Skilled application architects, as well as
business professionals who know how to put mashups together, are likely
to be in demand.

By Doug Bartholomew | December 2008

burgeoning use of enterprise mashups – a Web 2.0 hybrid combining data
from more than one source – has taken many IT departments by surprise.
Some are playing catch-up, trying to figure out how to keep tabs on
this largely user-driven phenomenon. As a result, skilled application
architects, as well as business professionals who understand how to put
mashups together, are likely to be in demand.

two or more applications and often utilizing data obtained via the Web,
mashups create what is essentially a new application. In most
businesses, this often results in users benefiting from a broader,
richer set of data for use in making decisions. According to research
firm Gartner, by 2010 more than 30 percent of Global 2000 organizations
will be using user-assembled, composite applications built with
enterprise mashup environments.

most business applications, Mashups typically source their content from
existing systems, and tend to have no native data store or content
repository. Instead, they’re usually be created – in effect, “mashed
up” – by business users in an opportunistic, tactical fashion.

example, last fall the Los Angeles Police Department used a
satellite-based geographic mapping application meshed with a system
tracking gang members who, as part of their parole, had been fitted
with ankle tracking devices. Moments after a 911 call reporting a fatal
drive-by shooting, an alert watch sergeant discovered one of the
ankle-fitted parolees was fleeing the shooting location in an SUV. Both
ground and air units were called in, and the entire gang was captured
shortly after the vehicle reached the gang’s hideout.

General Electric’s real estate business unit worked with MapInfo, a
Troy, N.Y., company, to integrate a mapping application with its loan
portfolio system. The resulting mashup enables the real estate unit’s
sales team to see other deals it has in the same market and how they
are performing.

:The list of
capabilities of what you can do with mashups is virtually endless,”
says Jonathan Yarmis, vice president for disruptive technologies at AMR
Research. “This is a Swiss Army Knife for users.”

their popularity, mashups pose a downside for IT management. That’s
because often no one is tending the mashup store. Business users are
fashioning mashups at will, without the CIO or director of IS any the
wiser. And because many mashups contain both public and private data
sources, there are data access issues.

issue is how much access to internal data do companies want to
provide?” asks Kathy Quirk, research manage for enterprise mashups and
portal strategies at International Data Corp.

software companies and IT vendors already offer systems to help manage
mashups. For instance, IBM’s Mashup Hub provides a level of security
and control for IT management, allowing both IT staff and business
users to define who can access the information.

kinds of skills will be needed by organizations looking to build
mashups as well as monitor their creation and use? “Application
architects need to investigate this growing space to assess the
significant impact it could have on enterprise application delivery,”
says a Gartner report. It recommends companies “plan for an explosion
of user-developed mashups, and the resulting impact on IT support, with
the need to apply quality control and governance to the development

professionals seeking to work in area should become familiar with some
of the emerging standards and practices for mashups, such as OpenAjax,
an IBM-initiated model for bringing in code and data from third
parties, and OpenSAM, a set of standards and practices for creating

Yarmis points out
mashups are essentially a Web 2.0 application that’s suddenly exploding
in companies where management has yet to catch up to the technology’s
curve. “The users in enterprises today are saying, ‘Let me consume
these technologies in ways that make sense in my business context.’
That’s where you get the real power of the mashups,” he says.

think every person coming into the workforce has that User 2.0
expectation,” he adds. “If you talk to an HR person these days, they’ll
tell you these new workers have an expectation about their workface.
That is, ‘If you ban or restrict the user’s use of this technology,
you’re cutting off my oxygen.'”

the growth of mashups means both business and IT staff with the skills
to build, manage, and govern them will be in demand over the next few

Doug Bartholomew is a business and technology writer based in California’s Bay Area.

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