Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What Web 2.0 means for Enterprise Architecture in the next 3-5 years

Since Web 2.0 has sneakily crept up on us all and replaced SOA as the instant ticket to techie street-cred, there has been a reasonable amount of thrashing around in the industry trying to come to grips with the concept. Inevitably, like most buzz words marching firmly towards term-du-jour status, there is a bit of substance and an enormous amounts of hype associated with this. The germ of substance, however, is what interests me at the moment and I will try to lay out the key implications for Enterprise Architecture in particular, of the developments in the Web 2.0 area. I'll save the highly cynical post about what exactly it is for some other time:)

I see the following Web 2.0 related opportunities that large organisations and Enterprises can take at the moment :

1. The browser as the only UI Channel.
Most large companies can drive substantial cost out of the desktop environment by adopting rich, browser based Ajax solutions. Productivity gains should be the icing on the cake.
Based on some work with some clients and a general sense of the environment, I firmly believe a large part of the cost of constructing, deploying and maintaining hundreds of desktop applications across a typical lage Enterprise can be eliminated over 3-5 years by creating an Ajax/Rich browser based user interface platform. Compared to the UI richness demanded by sites like Myspace and Google spreadsheets, the needs of most business applications are rather simpler and most Enterprises have a large amount of cost and complexity locked up in deploying and maintaining these applications. The coming desktop refresh cycle from Microsoft is likely to further exacerbate dependency hell on the user desktop and an investment in a UI platform delivering a location independent rich interface channel is likely to be far more sensible than investing in mass OS updates. Needless to say, I am pessimistic about whether vista can survive as a pure desktop environment in the 5-10 year time frame because of the emergence of Ajax type technologies.

2.Mashups as a composition mechanism for UI oriented services.
Last year, I heard Jaron Lanier speak at JAOO Aarhus. During his talk he brought out the concept of UI based integration that resonated with me at the time but I couldn't visualise it as working in real life. One year later, it is arguably already becoming a widely practised paradigm ( urgh) for application construction.
Using mashups is likely to take application integration and the concept of services much closer to the UI channel. Traditional portals were just a start but a a large number of business processes can effectively be seen in terms of simple mashup applications that exist to bring together not just services but living , breathing and changing applications ( which may also have a UI element). Cool stuff like this has endless possibilities in the Enterprise and belongs in the mainstream of application construction patterns , not just on the nerdy fringes. The next generation of CIO dashboard applications belong here.

3.Services acquire a Face ( from our augury section)

Our current concept of services essentially as self contained programs that exchange ( frequntly) message based input and output data is likely to change. In my view the next generation of services will have a default user interface and aggregation and composition of services is likely to occur on a UI channel in addition to a middleware/ESB backbone. Be prepared for U( ser Interface) S (ervice)B(used) type products that bring together mashups of applications and not just services.

To be continued....


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