I have been spending a lot of time recently learning about enterprise mashups. The new startup that I am working for is building a SaaS solution that will be consumed by various types of customers and partners. These customers and partners may want to consume our data services as a RSS feed, gadget, SMS message, web page, within a portal or portlet, or a number of different ways. I do not want to spend the rest of my life developing new output mediums for our services. Instead, I would rather spend my time adding new business services to enhance our product and service offerings hence contributing to the bottom line.
Enterprise Mashups to the rescue
Enterprise mashups will allow me to offer my partners and customers the ultimate flexibility to access our products and services in ways that are convenient for them without having to wait on my IT shop to decide if (a) we think the request is important enough in our priority list, (b) if we have the time and resources to work on it, and (c) how much we will charge them. On the IT side of the house, with an enterprise mashup strategy in place we can be assured that whatever mashups our customers and partners create, they will be subject to the same security and governance as the services we have developed. The diagram below shows a logical view of how our SOA will be designed.
As you can see, we have clearly abstracted the various layers within the architecture and they all inherit our overall security policies. SOA governance is applied to this architectural approach to enforce our standards and design principles. Overall IT governance provides oversight over the entire enterprise which includes legacy systems (we don't have any legacy yet), third party software, etc.
Now let's add the enterprise mashup layer. We want to hide the complexity of our architecture from the end user and expose data services to them to consume. At the same time we want these mashups to be equally secure as the services we write and adhere to the same governing principles. Enterprise mashup products provide tools to make managing this layer easy and efficient. The diagram below shows the enterprise mashup layer inserted into the architecture as a layer on top of SOA.
|From SOA Slides|
Enterprise Mashups in simple terms
If the concept of Enterprise Mashups is still not clear, check out this white board discussion with JackBe's CTO John Crupi.
I spent some time talking to JackBe's VP of Engineering Deepak Alur a few week's back. Deepak discussed how enterprises have been focusing more on infrastructure and technology and not on the consumers of data. As he coined it, many shops are "developing horizontally and not addressing the needs of the users". He talked about how users were doing their own brute force mashups by cutting and pasting data from various places into Excel. This creates various issues within the enterprise due to lack of data integrity, security, and governance. It is ironic how corporations spend huge amounts of money on accounting software and ERP systems, yet they still run the business out of user created Excel spreadsheets! The concept of enterprise mashups addresses this by shifting the focus back to the user consumption of data. Here are some of the requirements for mashups that Deepak pointed out to me:
- User driven & user focused
- Both visual & non-visual
- Client & server side (although most are server)
- Dynamic, Adhoc, Situational
- Secure & Governed
- Sharable & Customizable
- Near zero cost to the consumer
Presto Wires is a user friendly tool to allow users to create their own mashups by joining, filtering, and merging various data services (as shown in the picture below).
In this example the user is combing multiple data points from many different organizations in an automated fashion. They could then present this data to multiple different user interfaces and devices. All without waiting on IT.
Here is a simple example of a mashup of Google Maps with a Carpool data service.
The folks who create the Carpool data service where able to leverage the Google Maps service without having to write their own mapping software and without having to know the underlying architecture behind Google Maps.
How this solves my Dilemma
Back to my dilemma. By leveraging a tool like Jackbe's Presto or WSO2's Mashup Server, I can now present various data services in a secured and governed fashion to my customers and partners without being concerned on how they want to consume it. Whether they want the mashup on their own intranet, as a desktop gadget, as an application on Facebook, or what ever they dream of, all I need to be concerned with is the SLA of my data services. This also makes my product offering more competitive than my competitors who have proprietary user interfaces that do not provide the flexibility and customization that the customers desire. As I said in the title, this is the Icing on your SOA cake. For those organizations who are disciplined enough to implement SOA and follow the best practices of design and governance, the reward can be an simple addition of an Enterprise Mashup Platform on top of your SOA stack. This is the ultimate flexibility and agility that SOA promises.