Mashup Camp 2 Day 1: Mashdowns

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had to do all my blogging today offline because of the spotty wifi in the Computer History Museum, and I have to say that Windows Notepad makes a pretty sucky offline blogging tool. However, I’m relaxing back in my room listening to the newly-downloaded and extremely enjoyable Veneer (just available on iTunes, after I couldn’t buy the CD after a month of trying on Amazon.ca), cleaning up the blog posts and paper notes from today.

Following the kickoff session, we headed off to breakout sessions proposed by anyone and everyone during the kickoff. Each session was supposed to update the wiki with notes from anyone at the session, and you can find the grid of sessions here with links to the wiki pages with the notes. I’ll link to the notes for each of the sessions that I attended.

The first one that I headed to was “Mashdowns: mashing for competitive advantage in rich client/enterprise applications“, led by Mike Fisher and Ben Widhelm from ElephantDrive. They see this as a second generation of mashups: more tightly integrated into desktop or enterprise applications, and more focussed on “doing” rather than “consuming” — which seems pretty much aligned with my ideas about BPM and mashups. I hate their term “mashdown”, however, preferring the more-commonly used “enterprise mashup”. Really, the distinction between first and second generation mashups is primarily between consumer mashups and business/enterprise mashups.

We gathered a number of ideas about the difference between first and second generation mashups:

  • First generation mashups are about the “what”, and are primarily about aggregating/joining/federating data. They’re generally seen as useful by users (consumers), and because they’re focussed on the consumer market, they tend to be public, and developed rapidly and a bit loosely. The revenue model is usually based on ad revenues, since few end-users pay for the mashups.
  • Second generation mashups are about the “how”, and are about aggregating external and internal (enterprise) services. They’re useful to business for all the usual business ROI reasons: improving process efficiency, reducing IT costs and increasing business agility; like any other plan that reduces technology capital investment, they also tend to level the playing field for smaller companies since they can use the same technology as the big guys but not have to build it or buy it outright. Unlike the consumer mashups, however, they have to be industrial-strength, private and secure. Equally importantly, they have to be supported by some sort of service level agreement backed by appropriate high availability and disaster recovery scenarios, which most of the current API vendors are not willing to provide.

The key difference for me is that second generation mashups are about integrating into the business processes. This breakout was a significant conversation since it’s the first one that I’ve heard at either Mashup Camp where business processes were a major focus. I’m feeling very positive about BPM and Web 2.0 today.

We had a conversation about one of the main problems of enterprise mashups, which is their current lack of acceptance by IT. Part of this is IT attitudes: not trusting the external APIs, either in terms of data integrity or in terms of reliability, plus the NIH problem. An equally important part is the relatively lack of readiness of the APIs themselves in terms of SLAs, authentication and other indutrial-grade issues that would have external APIs be on equal footing alongside internal ones. Even with internal-only mashups, that use lighter-weight mashup techniques on internal APIs, there’s resistance to a new way of doing things. That really comes back to the question of the the difference between a mashup and any other web services orchestration, especially as lightweight (non-WS-*) integration methods are used for faster application assembly internally.

This was a great session for focussing my thoughts on how to talk to my enterprise customers about mashups.

Michael Scherotter was also there from Mindjet, distributing copies of their application on flashdrives. Haven’t had a chance to install and try it out yet.

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