Mashups Show Promise but Require IT Governance

IBM officials discuss mashup management and standardization as they prepare to release Lotus Mashups later this year.

ORLANDO, FLA. -- Business users hungry for taking disparate pieces of data and creating applications to get more business value may get their appetites satisfied when IBM's Lotus Mashups hits the market later this year.

Lotus Mashups will let users "mash up" various software feeds and widgets to build more valuable applications. Business users will be able to do this without IT personnel holding their hands, IBM officials said.

For example, employees in marketing, sales distribution or business managing will be able to drop data from weather reports, sales figures and inventory into situational applications that can be used when appropriate and easily discarded, Larry Bowden, vice president of portal and Web services interaction at IBM, said during a press briefing at the Lotusphere 2008 event here on Jan. 23.

However, as with all things in high tech, even the things designed to make knowledge work easier can evolve into business-class nightmares. For example, one questioner noted that when a mashup goes bust, there can be big consequences. How would IBM deal with that?

Acknowledging that uncontrolled mashups are a great concern for IT groups, Bowden said enterprises must give IT shops the authority to validate items that can be mashed up so that the applications don't crash the network. While business users may be mashing up data, the IT department gets the final approval of what data sets can get combined.

"IT shops aren't going to restrict people, but they will make sure there are certain characteristics that the widgets that get built have so they can have some control over them," Bowden said.

One thing that is clear beyond the internal business use is that there needs to be some sort of universal mashup standards for users and IT to rally around.

Another questioner, noting that there are a lot of "rubbish" mashups in the market, asked whether IBM would use its marketing and technological might to create a community edition of its mashup technology.

Bowden said IBM is working hard to bring standards that govern mashups and widgets to fruition, and pledged to support "the wide-open creation of widgets from Google, Yahoo" and others.

Socialtext President Ross Mayfield, on hand in support of his company's integration with Lotus Connections, said there needs to be more awareness and adoption across the enterprise, particularly with respect to security and privacy concerns.

Lotus Mashups is planned for release later this year, adding to what is already a broad base of mashup platforms with different flavors, including Microsoft's Popfly, and enterprise mashup tools from such companies as Serena, Jackbe and Nexaweb.

Also during the press event, Jeff Schick, vice president of social computing at IBM, unveiled version 8.1 of Lotus Quickr, the company's collaboration workspace that allows knowledge workers to more effectively work together.

Lotus Quickr 8.1 will include content libraries, team discussion forums, blogs and wikis, Schick said. Lotus Quickr Entry is planned to be added to the Quickr family and will enable personal file sharing through a subset of traditional Lotus Quickr capabilities such as connectors.

Lotus Quickr will also be integrated with enterprise content management systems, such as IBM FileNet P8 and IBM Content Manager, with more to come in the future.