Enterprise mashups, SOA's killer app?

As users move forward with the diligent work of SOA, enterprise mashups are emerging as an eye-popping new application that's getting the attention of the business unit.

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Why are enterprise mashups sexier than service-oriented architecture (SOA)?

One rings bells with business people and one doesn't, answers John Crupi, who worked on SOA when he was CTO at Sun Microsystems Inc., and now works on enterprise mashups as CTO of JackBe Corp.

Enterprise mashups are becoming the killer use-case for SOA.
Jason Bloomberg
Senior AnalystZapThink LLC.

"I spent many years working on the SOA side and I'll be the first to tell you, the business side doesn't care about SOA," he said. "There's nothing really in it for them. They just hear a bunch of promises."

Mashups are far easier to sell because vendors can quickly demonstrate their business value such as how bits of enterprise data can be pulled into a mashup to provide information with business value," Crupi points out.

Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC., said he agrees with Crupi's assessment of why mashups are such a compelling concept, but with the caveat that mashups won't be instead of SOA, but rather on top of SOA.

"We've long predicted that SOA will fade from view, as SOA best practices become broadly accepted IT and business best practices, a trend which we're seeing today," Bloomberg said. "Furthermore, enterprise mashups are becoming the killer use-case for SOA, that is, the ostensible reason for doing SOA from the perspective of the business. So, SOA is stronger than ever, it's just becoming part of the woodwork. Enterprise mashups are the part that shows."

Using the example of data services providers, Crupi says it is relatively easy for a mashup tool vendor to show how the information they already have can be repackaged in a Web browser providing a new revenue stream.

"All the data services providers package up their data in a few ways to give it to the user," Crupi said. "Whether it's in a binder or its FTP'd over every couple weeks, or you do a custom report, they are limited in the way they can get data to their customers."

With a mashup, a data service provider in the real estate business could set up an application that lets real estate agents access data on just the neighborhood where they are showing a house for sale. With a business model similar to the way Apple iTunes sells individual songs rather than albums, the real estate agent only pays for data covering the neighborhood where the home is being shown.

"It's a small package," Crupi said. "I'm paying by the drink."

And the real estate data services business is selling by the drink, just as a bar doesn't make money by offering customers a bottle of gin, but only enough for one martini. So with mashups, the JackBe CTO says, a new business model emerges.

"The business unit has the ability to derive revenue from data where they haven't been able to before," he said in explaining how mashup technology can be sold to business people. "What we do with enterprise mashups is show the business something and give them something. It's being able to work with data and have access and represent and even offer new revenue channels because they have access to data they never had before. It's something that's designed for the business unit. And it's something they can sell."

To use a consumer electronics example, the circuitry inside the box may provide the high-definition picture on the HDTV monitor, but what interests the customer is the clarity of the football game.

"SOA is a standard way to get data in a form where something of value can be done," Crupi said. "But I think enterprise mashups are eclipsing SOA."

For more information
Oracle world view: SOA morphs into enterprise mashups

Harvard prof. envisions Enterprise 2.0 Web services

Most HDTV shoppers don't go into the store and ask about the circuitry. They want to see the picture.

"Here's the interesting thing, Crupi said, "we get called into customers where they are asking: 'Tell us about mashups.' This is the business unit. I've never been in a customer meeting where the business people said: 'Tell us about SOA.'"

However, he doesn't think this means SOA is doomed or even passé, just that it may be destined to be the behind-the-scenes technology but not the rock star technology.

"I think we'll see SOA activity increase this year," Crupi predicted. "It just won't be talked about as much."

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