IBM, BEA Mash Up Line-of-Business Employees, Developers

As startups showcase their collaboration and RIA tools at Enterprise 2.0, IBM and BEA are embracing mashups in a big way. Both are demonstrating tools, due to ship next month,

June 22, 2007

3 Min Read
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Boston—Almost every keynote, presentation or sales pitch at this week's Enterprise 2.0 conference eventually gets round to the same theme: The consumerization of enterprise IT. We've all become accustomed to RIAs and new ways of communicating in our personal lives, and people just now entering the workforce have never known a world without the Web.

Yet too often, enterprise apps remain mired in the 20th century. If IT doesn't adapt, users will either route around it, with possible security and compliance implications, or the organization will miss out on newer, more efficient ways of collaborating.

But some vendors are going further, saying Web 2.0 is about more than just employee satisfaction and better communication. Startups including JackBe, Coghead and LongJump see employees as a rich source of IT innovation, and in response have aimed their mashup platforms at regular people, not developers. They've now been joined by giants IBM and BEA Systems, both of which used the show to demonstrate tools designed for line-of-business staff.

Collectively known as Info 2.0, Big Blue's mashup suite is due to enter free beta next month, with general availability in about six months. IBM demonstrated two main components at the show: The Info 2.0 development platform itself, and a Mashup Hub, which is aimed at centralizing management of mashups and mashable components—usually RSS feeds and Ajax widgets, either developed in-house or found on the Internet.

The idea is that employees create applications using the Hub's drag-and-drop interface, while IT catalogs, manages and secures the apps in the Hub. According to IBM, this setup is intended to make the relationship between IT and staff less adversarial: Individual users and business units do what they want with their own data, while IT can still assure security and regulatory compliance.Busy BEA

BEA used the show to demonstrate its AquaLogic Pages and AquaLogic Ensemble mashup products, which were announced in March and are due to ship next month. It acquired both in 2006, along with a third component, the AquaLogic Pathways social bookmarking engine. (IBM also entered the social-bookmarking market this week with the launch of Lotus Connections.) AquaLogic Pages is the visual development environment aimed at employees, while the Pathways management system for IT is roughly equivalent to IBM's Hub.

However, the two vendors aren't pushing exactly the same vision: BEA's Pathways also includes some tools for developers, aimed at the creation of widgets that employees can then use in mashups. For its part, IBM is leaving actual widget development to others, saying that many of its customers use open-source tools, especially Dojo. And unlike BEA's offering, Info 2.0 does include some service-enablement features, intended to expose text or spreadsheet files as RSS services that can be included as mashups.

This tack is similar to strategies cited by startups Kapow Technologies, Denodo Technologies and Serendipity Technologies WorkLight, all of which stress that simple development tools are only half the enterprise mashup story. Most organizations have a huge amount of valuable data locked up in files stored on employees' hard drives, which at present are not even accessible on the corporate intranet, never mind as mashups.

The big question for IT: Will users want to develop their own mashup applications? The majority probably won't, so these tools clearly aren't for everyone. However, some will, and may even be doing so already using outside service providers or public Web sites. Enterprise mashup tools can both help prevent data leaks and maintain IT's relevance—good news for both IT shops and the vendors that sell to them.Andy Dornan is a senior technology editor for Network Computing. Write to him at [email protected].

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