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Mashups Accelerating and SOA Is Along for the Ride

Mashups are moving from things that are conceptual and fun to things that are productive and businesslike

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that mashups are moving from things that are conceptual and fun, to things that are productive and businesslike. The fact is, developers are leveraging mashups to solve all sorts of business problems these days, and the speed to production and the value of these little applications is compelling.

However, when you look at mashups, you're not only looking at the mixing and matching of resources found on the Web and / or within the enterprise, but at a true composite application as we've been defining for years in the world of SOA. Thus, mashups are indeed SOA, and SOA does indeed include the concept of mashups. However, there are many in the emerging world of Web 2.0 who would differ on this point of view. We’ll talk more about that later.

What I’m asserting is that, when talking about mashups in the context of architecture, you're typically talking about SOA. In fact, when considering mashups, they are one of the most successful aspects of SOA. The use of mashups is now exploding, and thus they provide the best proof point of SOA. In essence, mashups are the killer application for SOA.

Or, if you're talking about "webby" applications, then perhaps WOA, or Web-Oriented Architecture, is a better term. It really doesn’t matter to me, as long as we're discussing the use of Web-based, and enterprise-based, resources/services that are knitted together to form a solution. Or, more important, provide the ability to re-create the solution (the composite) without a lot of latency, in essence, adding the notion of agility.

Most who build mashups don't think of it as SOA. However, the core notions of SOA / WOA are clearly at work when considering mashups. I view mashups as a mechanism that proves the SOA concept. As time goes on, the concept of mashups will morph into traditional development and become part of the architecture. Yes, this means that mashups won’t be the reneged and disruptive concept they are today, but a well-defined approach to combining many resources together into something that solves a core business problem, and does so quickly.

Mashup Pushback
There are those who do not want the term "mashups" sullied with the term "SOA." The core message is that they view SOA as something that's "enterprisy," and mashups as much more innovative and not really enterprise-related. I can see their point, but the use of mashups is never unrelated to architecture. Indeed, any application is by definition a part of architecture…even enterprise architecture and SOA.

Let me be clear. While mashups are an innovative way of building very cool applications from many available resources, visual and non-visual, they are still composite applications. While I'm seeing mashups that are completely Web hosted, I'm seeing more and more that are a mix of Web and enterprise resources, as well as mashups that are true "enterprise mashups."

While mashups did not emerge from the core concepts of SOA, they do provide some core SOA mechanisms, including the ability to:

  • Place volatility into a single domain, thus allowing for changes, thus allowing for agility
  • Leverage services, both for information and behavior
  • Bind together many back-end systems, making new and innovative uses of those systems

This does not mean that mashups are not innovative; clearly they are. Moreover, it doesn’t mean that mashups are not extensions of the core notion of SOA. Remember, SOA is not an object, it's an architectural pattern.

The reality is that mashups are nothing new, as a concept, and SOA is nothing revolutionary. The core value of mashups is the ability to quickly assemble killer applications using existing resources. We’ve been doing this since the days of object-oriented and component-based programming. However, modern mashups using resources found on the Web, typically free and on-demand, are much more exciting and cool. 

SOA is not as exciting and cool these days, although it’s clearly about creating resources and then combining and recombining them into solutions. This provides the ability to adapt to business changes, which is the core benefit of SOA. Thus, with the success of mashups as a core composite application approach, comes the success of SOA. You just can’t deny that fact.

More Stories By David Linthicum

Dave Linthicum is Sr. VP at Cloud Technology Partners, and an internationally known cloud computing and SOA expert. He is a sought-after consultant, speaker, and blogger. In his career, Dave has formed or enhanced many of the ideas behind modern distributed computing including EAI, B2B Application Integration, and SOA, approaches and technologies in wide use today. In addition, he is the Editor-in-Chief of SYS-CON's Virtualization Journal.

For the last 10 years, he has focused on the technology and strategies around cloud computing, including working with several cloud computing startups. His industry experience includes tenure as CTO and CEO of several successful software and cloud computing companies, and upper-level management positions in Fortune 500 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years, and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities, including University of Virginia and Arizona State University. He keynotes at many leading technology conferences, and has several well-read columns and blogs. Linthicum has authored 10 books, including the ground-breaking "Enterprise Application Integration" and "B2B Application Integration." You can reach him at david@bluemountainlabs.com. Or follow him on Twitter. Or view his profile on LinkedIn.

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