IBM offers prototype for creating mashups

IBM earlier this month brought out a prototype technology that uses Web services and wiki technology to quickly build customized "mashup" applications that can blend external information, like news feeds and weather reports, with enterprise content and services. IBM defines mashups as applications that use open technologies such as Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX), PHP scripting language and syndicated feeds to combine content from more than one source into a single application. In an interview with Computerworld after the announcement, Rod Smith, IBM's vice president of emerging Internet technologies, talked about the genesis of the prototype, called Enterprise Mashup, and how IBM expects to use the new technology.

What are the business drivers behind creating the prototype of the Enterprise Mashup product?

As the Internet keeps evolving, we keep hearing how customers want to leverage it to build these informational applications. They are very timely and topical. When a storm is coming up the coast, how will that affect your business? One customer said a major factor in their business is the weather. It was probably the second most important variable in their business, next to employees. They asked if we have a real-time weather service. We did a prototype for them based on their requirements that showed [how their stores] could use the mashup. You could use a Google map to click on a store to see weather conditions and also show inventory. You need to be able to monitor things on a timely basis to make business decisions. Folks say these things would be really helpful, but they don't have any way to build them now. Applications like that have been too costly to build from an IT perspective.

How does the prototype technology work?

It is like wiring the Web. It is more of an assembler. We started looking at Web-based data sources like weather, traffic and some that show building permits. With [Enterprise Mashup operating] inside a browser, you could see a palette of these Web components, and you just drag them on a wiki page. They automatically get the information and show it to you then and there. You've actually assembled it. It is not like traditional application development.

What is the technology behind the prototype?

Web services. You wouldn't have this whole area of mashups if you didn't have [service-oriented architecture] as a backbone. Then there is Web 2.0 technology like AJAX and syndication feeds. Someone can point to an RSS feed, and we will get it and put it in a format where they can put in one their [Web] pages. Underneath, we use some PHP technology and open-source wiki technology. It is immediate satisfaction as opposed to normal application development [processes].

When can IT use the Enterprise Mashup technology?

As enterprise customers look at what is happening in the open-source world of mashup camps, they are describing these types of applications. Through their guidance, we will decide how we will incorporate this into future products.

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