Monday, May 19, 2008

What is a Mashup?

As I expect to start blogging more frequently about mashups as a web 2.0 extension to SOA, the least thing I could do is explain what a mashup actual is. Well, I am not going to explain it myself because David Berlind, executive editor at ZDNET, can do the job much better...

My three cents

To reach your customers via the cloud (it is where millions of your prospects are), start focusing on delivering your content and offerings via your own API's in stead (beside) of building websites. And allow your marketing employees and customers to build their own mashups. Just like the little Google mashup on my blog page ("My Three Cents"). This mashup got API's to complex algorithms - running in Googles secured data centers somewhere in the cloud - that calculate my incentives and manage the payments that should make me rich.

Or what about the video above that mashes up with this blog entry and has an API to a giant video server infrastructure "somewhere".

Mashups are so much more powerful and pervasive than just a website; potentially it can spread your business like a "virus" among your prospects as I illustrated with my train ticket mashup. Think of what fantastic mashups creative anonymous web-hobbyists and students could (will) build with our API's to our ticket selling-, delay state- and reroute applications. Just imagine what the potential could be for your business.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mashups and Shadow IT, the next wave

Just a few days ago I decided the shift focus a bit more to mashups and shadow IT by publishing a posting tittled About another view on SOA and selling train tickets. I explained the huge benefits that mashups even can have for an aged company that has a primary business process of driving trains, since the 19th century. And it was very easy to come up with a mashup example that could potentially lead to new business revenues for this ancient business at almost zero investment.

To me mashups and shadow IT are the ineluctable consequences of the evolvement of the Internet. It is just there and it will grow in features, pervasiveness and influence. It is the next wave that companies must be prepared for by service enabling their internals to get connected. The future will be services based business or no business.

And now, not more than a few days later, Thomas Erl publishes two articles on the same subject in his famous and well respected SOA Magazine.


One article, being the first of a series of three, explains - as the tittle says - how mashups brings SOA to the people. I think the tittle could better be: "Bringing the People to SOA" instead of "Bringing SOA to the People". It is a matter of perspective. I prefer the outside-in perspective in stead of inside-out (IMHO the authors are a bit conservative on this aspect).

The benefits of mashups are "speed", "scale", and "scope": faster answers, improved resource use, new opportunities. Forrester Research predicts that mashups will be a $682 million industry in the next 5 years (Oliver Young, Forrester Research, April 18, 2008).

I am looking forward to part two of the series, where the authors will explore how enterprise mashups relate to and build upon SOA.

Shadow IT

The other article explains shadow IT as being edge applications in a Service-Oriented Enterprise. The term "shadow IT" was coined for systems built without corporate approval inside business units, departments and whole subsidiaries. Shadow IT can drive innovation and effectiveness without hindering larger IT evolution. The reality is shadow IT is not going away.


I really love this stuff. It connects my 3 decades of professional enterprise IT experiences with the organic growing public domain IT infrastructures that are globally and nearly free available to individuals. It is the hinge where IT led by business changes to business led by IT. And I love to be part of this game that will change our world forever.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

About another view on SOA and selling train tickets

On this blog I occasionally mention two perspectives on SOA; one is the composite application construction perspective and the other is the business organization perspective. Both perspectives have an internal viewpoint; they look inside the organization. It's the inside-out approach to SOA. I neglected another approach to SOA which I now think is at least as important, if not more: the outside-in approach to SOA. (Mind: I am not talking about the outside-in design of services, which is something different)

With the growth of Internet, or the "cloud", organizations are surrounded by high quality pervasive connectivity which lies global wide in the hands of individuals (employees, customers) at no cost. Until now I did not blog much about this giant technology leap of the last decade. But I no longer can ignore this evolvement as a highly valid justification to introduce SOA, outside-in.

Let me confess, I was triggered by this book...

The book is set up around the case of a manufacturer of popcorn makers. One of its employees found out - via his personal weblog - that there existed a huge market for popcorn makers that got the logo of the buyers favorite sports team printed on it. The authors of the book talk about "shadow IT" as a kind of home-brew IT at the edge of the organization managed by employees in contrast to "hub IT" in the center of the organization managed by the IT department. The authors stress not to ignore this shadow IT, as I did, but to promote and support it. They supply rules, tell the reader how to put these rules to work, and they provide some real life examples. They show the very, very recognizable resistance, scepticism and pitfalls and how to overcome these challenges. In essence it's about supplying Web services based API's on the core systems to support light weight mashup code distributed widely on the Internet. Every site applying the mashup code automatically changes into a selling channel.

This video shows a playlet of a part of the fictive case in the book.

Of course opening up your applications with a SOAP-based API doesn't make an SOA. But what is interesting is the approach the authors chose to evolve to a mature SOA: it doesn't start with rethinking structure and governance, but with allowing and even promoting some sort of chaos! For the sake of new business revenue and business innovation...

A (not too) fictive example

I tried to jump from the case in the book to my real life working environment. What has selling popcorn makers in common with people transportation by train? More than you would think.

Buying a ticket

We (Dutch Railways) want more people on our trains. We attract people on the train by offering clean and comfortable trains and pleasant stations. But everybody knows that selling something works best by making buying as easy as possible. So getting people on the train can best be achieved by making buying a ticket as easy and convenient as a few mouse clicks at home (or on a mobile PDA or laptop). The tag cloud on our website even shows clearly that many visitors are searching the site for buying tickets ("kaartjes kopen"). Unfortunately however, there is no possibility to buy tickets online; the site directs to vending machines on the station as the most convenient way to buy a ticket (...!).


Create Javascript (or Flash or whatever) code (to be embedded as a mashup on any website) with a SOAP call to a ticket ordering application including payment facilities (e.g. credit card payment).

Not printing but world wide delivery at home

Printing tickets on a home printer is susceptible to fraud (illegal copies), so why not send genuine tickets to the home address with an ordinary one day delivery service? In Holland this costs 44 cents per sending, with discounts for printed matter and discounts for bulk mail. If you decide to travel at hoc by train today, then just buy your ticket in the conventional way.

Japanese (or any other foreign) holiday travelers can buy their train tickets during preparing their visit to beautiful Holland. They receive their tickets at home and need not find their way to and on any "difficult" vending machines nor do they need to line up the queues at the selling counters.

Copy and paste selling points

The mashup code can be offered to relevant site owners to be embedded on their site (sports events, meeting room providers, hotels, airlines, theaters, travel agencies, discotheques, pop festivals, our own homepage, etc). The mashup code is freely to be distributed to virtually everyone, so every employee (or whoever) may promote the selling of tickets from his own private weblog or home page without the buyers leaving the webpage.

To promote the deployment of the ticket selling mashup, mechanisms could be created to pay incentives to owners of sites from which tickets are sold.

Ticket becomes collectors item

The ticket handling can be ad-supported. Just print advertisements on the tickets. Or the tickets can hold the logo of the football team from whose site the tickets are ordered. You may even have the possibility to upload you own image to be printed on the ticket in case you offer tickets as a "present" to your grandchildren in order to stimulate them to come over to you for a visit. Relevant travel information like platform numbers, time tables and change locations may be printed on the backside of the ticket or on an accompanying leaflet. To foreign travelers some extra guidance could be sent on traveling with the Dutch public transports in general. The train ticket may in the end turn into a collectors item like a stamp.


To accomplish this, the tickets need to be printed on demand. That requires to contract a printing house to do this job. And we need to bulk mail the tickets every day. Another specialized service provider could be contracted to fulfill that job for us. This kind of service oriented organization is a win-win situation for all parties involved. The traveler gets his tickets delivered at home, the printing house and mailing service provider gain business revenue, and Dutch Railways is pervasive visible in the "cloud" with numerous selling points all over the world.

Commercial features

Some other easy to be implemented commercial features are:
  • Offering targeted and ad-hoc discounts is a piece of cake which would hardly be possible using the conventional vending machines or selling counters
  • Combined ticket selling for traveling and entrance to an event are easily possible
And last bus not least, possibly the number of vending machines can be reduced by offering discounts on online ordered tickets.