Dan Cahoon was looking for a way to streamline staffing operations at tax company H&R Block, the nations largest seasonal employer. Rather than use traditional desktop-based software for the job, the senior systems architect at H&R Block was able to deliver SOA-connected AJAX portlets to more than 12,000 branch offices for temporary work spaces to meet the companys staffing needs.
Cahoons example illustrates the growing trend of merging Web 2.0 technologies with SOA (service-oriented architecture) to address issues normally handled through PC-based software, resulting in faster, cheaper and more flexible solutions.
"Web 2.0 is used in many ways but predominantly has two aspects—one social, the other technical," said Kevin Hakman, director of developer evangelism at TIBCO Software, in Palo Alto, Calif. H&R Block is a TIBCO customer and used TIBCO products for its SOA deployment.
"On the social side, Web 2.0 is about a phenomenon of shifting the publishing power out to users and away from centrally controlled publishing processes," Hakman said. "The ability for users to blog and syndicate their posts, the notion of a wiki as a collaboration amongst users, [and] the evolving idea of a mashup as something the user can assemble from existing Web parts and data are all examples of the power to compose being provided to the many."
"Google Docs and Yahoo Mail Plus are examples of this, substantially providing the core features of Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook," Hakman said.
Two of the industrys hottest buzzwords are combining to fuel one of the hottest emerging trends in the industry—the use of Web 2.0 technologies acting as front ends to SOA back-end environments.
This trend touches on RIAs (rich Internet applications), mashups, AJAX, RSS, REST (Representational State Transfer) and other Web 2.0 areas. Now being referred to as Enterprise 2.0, the Web 2.0 technologies are helping to create rich interactive front ends to SOA back-end systems. In addition, line-of-business users who typically are nondevelopers can take services and build mashups without IT involvement—a potential boon for productivity but also a possible problem without proper governance.
"Whats really changing is the impact that Web 2.0 technologies are having on SOA—in fact, changing the approaches," said Dan Hushon, chief technology officer at EMCs Grid Business Unit, in Hopkinton, Mass. "Web 2.0 concepts and technologies may, over time, displace the WS-* stack in many cases.
John Crupi, CTO at JackBe, which sells Web 2.0 solutions, said the wave of consumer technologies is driving into the enterprise.
"Were transforming from an application-centric enterprise to Web 2.0, which is putting the user in charge," said Crupi in Chevy Chase, Md. "Users can create, consume, customize, collaborate. They can access all information anywhere, anytime on any browser. I used to say the A in SOA is AJAX; now I say the M in SOA is mashup. Enterprise mashups are user-driven and user-focused."
Ronald Schmelzer, an analyst with ZapThink, said mashups complement SOA. "Youre getting capabilities or functionality from a Web application and combining it with another capability, and mashups are made a heck of a lot simpler if theyre made of services that are service-oriented," Schmelzer said. "Its also a plus because of the user interaction."
The new Web 2.0-enabled enterprise is sort of "like the long-tail approach—there is more opportunity in catering to a mass of niches than a niche of masses," Schmelzer said. Enterprises can use Web 2.0 and SOA to enable line-of-business staff to create hundreds of applications that will benefit many in their organizations. "The downside to all this freedom is the control," Schmelzer said. "The problem is, if you build all these services, how do you prevent people from doing harm?"