Enterprise Mashups FAQs

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Enterprise Mashups FAQ's

Q. What do mashups mean for my business?

Mashups let businesses be more competitive, offering greater agility and opportunities for innovation.  This is a new way for business users to combine enterprise and web data to solve a specific problem.  Mashups can help businesses reduce expenses and reduce cycle time both partnering with IT more effectively and supporting how people are addressing specific problems and making better business decisions.  The speed and ease of assembling mashups offer business a cost effective way to quickly put together an application to solve a specific problem themselves – reducing time and coordination needed from IT.  Business can also be more innovative and support new partnerships more effectively, increase individual’s productivity and support new ways for individuals and teams to collaborate in how they share information with colleagues.

Q. How do mashups work with existing IT infrastructure?

Mashups are a new way to support rapidly changing business needs - reusing assets and reducing cycle time to ease application backlogs.  Mashups complement existing investments in IT because it is a simple way of accessing and using existing applications.  Mashups can snap into existing infrastructure – leveraging existing user directories and LDAP, as well as unlocking existing information sources.  Information feeds and widgets created for and utilised in a mashup solution can also potentially be extended to existing applications or even portal initiatives.

Q. What steps do I need to consider to use mashups effectively?

Before a mashup can be created, the necessary content and services need to be exposed into an easily consumable format – typically in the form of feeds and/or widgets.

Making content easily accessible for business to mash up, means making it available in the form of Representational State Transfer (REST) services, and Really Simple Syndication (RSS) or Atom Syndication Format (Atom) feeds.  With REST services you can expose applications, information and services from the enterprise as URLs and feeds – it simplifies how to call a service – making it simpler for developers to access your existing services.

Once REST-based services are created, they can be wrapped into mini-applications or widgets that allow end users to interact with the underlying data services via rich user interfaces.  IT and technically skilled individuals develop widgets and feeds that business users will use to create mashups. During the widget creation step, widget events are defined, which make it possible for the widget to accept or pass information to other widgets.

After unleashing all that content, business users need to find it effectively– so you need to make it easy to discover and assess which feeds, widgets, services, or mashups are best suited to their specific business needs. To do this you can take advantage of another aspect of Web 2.0 technology – community tools – that let you tag, rate, comment, and publish new assets.

Assets and feeds rarely exist in exactly the form that matches other data or feeds that will be used.  Developers and business users need the capability to transform information so that they can use it side by side with information from other sources.  This is a critical capability because it directly relates to reducing cost and cycle time – the easier it is to transform data the faster a targeted mashup can be created.  Data can be transformed for side by side comparison as well as to serve a very targeted purpose in the mashup.

After an application is created, it can be shared with peers and also published to the catalogue for use by others.  This is a key step, because for most business users, the fastest way to create their own mashups is to find similar applications on the catalogue, and then tweak them to fit new requirements.

Q. What is a feed?

A web feed is a data format used for providing users with frequently updated content.  Many web-savvy users are familiar today with the notion of subscribing to RSS or ATOM feeds in order to get up-to-date news. The most common way to read or subscribe to feeds is via the feed readers coupled within browsers. Feeds, however, have started to emerge as a common way for organisations to expose their existing enterprise data in a manner that is easily consumable by others.  Feeds can be created from Enterprise, Departmental, personal sources like Excel, or from Web sources.

Q. What is a widget?

A widget is a small, portable application or piece of dynamic content that can easily be placed into a Web page or an embedded browser within a rich client. Widgets can be written in any language [Java, .NET, PHP, and more] or can be a simple HTML fragment.  Widgets that pass events can be wired together to create mashups. Widgets are called different names by different vendors, for example gadgets, blocks, and flakes.

Q. What is the difference between a widget and a portlet?

Conceptually widgets and portlets are the same.  In fact, widgets can be surfaced as portlets in most portals.  The key difference is that widgets are lightweight browser-based components that can be written in any language [HTML, PHP, Java, .NET, etc.]. Portlets are also components, but they are written and adhere to a well known and industry standard set of APIs.

Q. What is the relationship between mashups and portals?

Portals are an important part of IT environments - delivering personalised access based on roles to appropriate applications, information, and processes.  Portals offer a platform to manage content and access across thousands or millions of users in a secure and sustainable manner – delivering trusted performance for mission critical business processes.  Mashups meet a different need. Mashups typically are created based on a tactical need for a specific audience.

While Portal applications are built and managed by IT, mashups can be created and managed by either IT or by technically savvy line of business personnel.  In addition, while Portal applications tend to be strategic and mission-critical, mashups are often “good enough” applications created to solve specific problems and mashup platforms can easily co-exist and integrate with portal platforms. For example, if a mashup application begins to grow steadily in usage and in features, the business owner might want to then transition that over to the Portal environment, where IT can then enhance it and maintain it.

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