Mashups and the corporate SOA

I listened to a podcast last week of David Linthicum interviewing Dion Hinchcliffe that really helped to coalesce my thoughts about mashups, Web 2.0, SOA, composite applications and the future of integration. I was walking along a street in downtown Toronto, listening to it on my iPod, and making enough facial expressions, hand gestures and remarks aloud that I was likely written off as one of the usual crazies: it’s very exciting when someone with very similar ideas to your own states them much more clearly than you could have said it yourself.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about mashups and the implications for enterprise integration, which of the integration vendors is likely to jump on this bandwagon early, and noted that I’ll be at Mashup Camp later this month because I really want to explore the convergence of mashups and enterprise integration. Unbeknownst to me, Dion Hinchcliffe had published an article in the SOA Web Services journal in late December entitled Web 2.0: The Global SOA, which was the focus of the podcast, and blogged about the 100’s of services available on the “giant service ecosystem” that is the web:

An important reason why the Web is now the world’s biggest and most important computing platform is that people providing software over the Internet are starting to understand the law of unintended uses. Great web sites no longer limit themselves to just the user interface they provide. They also open up their functionality and data to anyone who wants to use their services as their own. This allows people to reuse, and re-reuse a thousand times over, another service’s functionality in their own software for whatever reasons they want, in ways that couldn’t be predicted. The future of software is going to be combining the services in the global service landscape into new, innovative applications. Writing software from scratch will continue to go away because it’s just too easy to wire things together now.

The information on this is now starting to explode: David Berlind (organizer of Mashup Camp) discusses the bazaar-like quality of the mashup ecosystem, Stephen O’Grady pushes the concept of SOA to include mashups, and even Baseline Magazine is talking about how mashups can free you from the tyranny of software vendors with a discussion about how some of the services feeding mashups could be used in an enterprise integration context.

All of this has huge implications for business processes, and the type of BPM that currently resides completely inside an organization. Most BPM vendors have enabled their products to be consumers of web services in order to more easily play an orchestration role, and some customers are even starting to take advantage of this by invoking web services that integrate other internal systems as steps in a business process (although a lot are still, unfortunately, stuck in earlier, more primitive generations of integration techniques). Imagine the next step: as corporate IT departments get over their “not invented here” fears, the BPM tools allow them to integrate not just internal web services, but external services that are part of the Web 2.0 mashup ecosystem. Use a Salesforce.com service to do a customer credit check as part of processing their insurance application. Integrate Google Maps or Yahoo maps to determine driving directions from your service dispatch location to your customer’s location in order to create service call sheets. It’s like software-as-a-service, but truly on a per-service rather than per-application basis, allowing you to pick and choose what functions/services that you want to invoke from any particular step in your business process.

Dion Hinchcliffe thinks that 80% of enterprise applications could be provided by external services, which is a great equalizer for smaller businesses that don’t have huge IT budgets, and could almost completely disconnect the issue of business agility from the size of your development team. I think that it’s time for some hard introspection about what business that you’re really in: if your organization is in the business of selling financial services, what are you doing writing software from scratch when you could be wiring it together using BPM and the global SOA that’s out there?

Update: David swamped his podcast provider and ended up moving the podcast here. Reference also updated above.

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