Monday, March 15, 2010

    What Should be Next for Enterprise Mashups?

    My friend over at JackBe, Chris Warner, recently sent me an email asking me what the next 2 to 3 years should hold for Enterprise Mashups. JackBe, in case you don't know, is the creator of the Enterprise Mashup software Presto.  We've used Presto on a project and it's a wonderfully crafted piece of software with many, many possibilities in front of it.  Presto has, at its heart, the creation of mashups, those elusive but so useful beasts which give you all kinds of new-fangled views into your data.

    This is a topic I've spent a little bit of time thinking about, fancying myself to be at least a passable user and creator of mashups.  I'm going to change up the question a bit, though, and delve into territory that is slightly afield.  So, I propose these related questions:  Just what the heck are Enterprise Mashups?  And, what's next for them?

    Any Ol' Programmer
    Let's be honest, any programmer can get out there and create a mashup with a little elbow grease.  The technology is there such that, with a little bit of web service lifting and a little bit of UI know-how you can create fantastical mashups that will make everyone sit up and take notice.  What's more, if you do it right, your own mashup can, in turn, become a data source for someone else to consume.  It's a bit like Sir Elton John says, that whole Circle of Life thing.

    But, that's just the problem, isn't it?  We're not all programmers, now, are we?  Not all of us even have access to programmers (or, as we like to style ourselves now-a-days, "software engineers"), so it's not like we can ask someone else to do it for us.  And, most important of all, programmer time is expensive.  If you do have access to a programmer and task them with spending hours creating your pet mashup, you're likely to get a whack on the wrists from the company dumby stick.  So, what use are mashups to the common-day man?  They're nice to look at, but not really practical beyond that.

    Enter the Enterprise
    No, not the ship, though that would be cool.  The Enterprise is (or should be) all about putting a useful tool into the hands of someone other than an engineer.  To a certain extent it's about lowering the technical barrier of entry.  Any programmer should be able to put a mashup together, but that doesn't mean that they are easy.  There is a lot of wiring together and hacking things up that takes place.

    Enter the folks at JackBe, handing us Presto.  With software like Presto it's possible for someone of a less technical bent, someone that's not a programmer, to put together a mashup that's useful.  This Enterprise tool takes some of the difficulty out of the creation.  And that, in a nutshell, is what the Enterprise should be about.

    What's Next?
    Even though products like Presto lower the barrier of entry, there is still a long way to go.  Presto shines at doing the actual mashing, wiring the data together to get the new view.  But, one area where Enterprise Mashup software needs to tread next is into more robust presentation of that new view.

    One thing that mashups excel at is the creation of data.  One thing that data desperately wants to do is be visualized.  There are so many tools out there for visualizing data, but most of them have a similar dilemma to non-enterprise mashups:  it takes specialized skills to use them.  Enterprise Mashups need to tread here, next, lowering the barrier of entry into rich presentation of the data that mashups are so good at generating.

    To Infinity...
    From there, well, who knows.  I'd like to see tools which are good at creating not just a good presentation but actual interaction, all done so that the common layman can create them with minimal know-how.  I've blogged before about how it's important for people like analysts to be able to do at least some kind of rudimentary software development.  I see that Enterprise Mashups can fill this role once they come to full maturity.  It's a big area, one that needs more exploration, and I'm quite happy that I get a peek into it at the ground floor.

    No comments: