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The Connected Web

Phil Wainewright

Web 2.0 and the Lost World of Enterprise Mashups

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A while back I was discussing Web 2.0 over lunch with a MySpace executive and it slowly dawned on me that we each had a completely different understanding of the term, even though both were consistent with Tim O'Reilly's original definition. My perspective emphasized new ways of developing applications and mashing up data using Web APIs. Her background meant she saw it as mainly about social networking and collaboration.

A lot of people in enterprise IT still talk about Web 2.0 in terms of opening up data and applications to business users, even though the rest of the world has moved on and defines it as connecting with their friends on FaceBook or contributing to a Wikipedia entry. Maybe the definition will move back (some now say that social networks are sinking), but if it doesn't we need to invent some new terms because there's some really important stuff going on that deserves more attention.

Yesterday I participated in a webinar that exemplifies how the original principles of Web 2.0 have been harnessed in ways that resolve some long-standing enterprise computing headaches. In it, Rob Guikers, CTO of Netherlands-based developer Jibes, showed how Web technologies helped one customer escape from what is often known as 'Excel hell'. A manufacturer with an SAP system needed to exchange stock and order information with suppliers who were running their own proprietary ERP systems. As so often happens, Excel was being used as a manual transformation layer for exchanging data between the two systems and you can imagine the daily delays and errors that was causing.

Web 2.0 has led to the creation of enabling tools and a mentality that says we don't have to do things that way any more. We can use simple REST APIs to easily extract real-time data, even from legacy systems, and we can bring those feeds into mashup tools that allow business users to combine and manipulate the data. If they want, they can even plug the mashup feeds into familiar Excel spreadsheets — but without the delays and errors of the old manual processes.

In the early days of Web 2.0 hype, there was a lot of excitement about the potential for this type of capability but it was all theoretical and untried. We've come on a few years and today the capabilities are proven and have been built into the kind of robust, reliable tools being described in the webinar. But because the hype has moved on, they're not getting the attention they deserve, which is a shame, because it leaves many people unaware of what's now possible. The webinar recording, called Adapt with Agility - Web 2.0 in your Application Infrastructure, is available for replay now.

Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

Phil Wainewright specializes in on-demand services View more

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