Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Build Enterprise Mashups with BEA WebLogic Portal 9.2

NOTE: this blog entry was originally posted January 9th, 2007 on my previous blogging system (dev2dev.bea.com).

Plug: Don't miss my Webinar on Wednesday, January 10th, 2007 that demonstrates how BEA WebLogic Portal can power Enterprise Mashups today!

Mashups Gain Momentum in the Enterprise

Enterprises are beginning to look at a concept called Mashups to facilitate application development within IT. This approach is gaining traction due to these benefits:

  • Mashups focus on lightweight integrations of applications which enables rapid development
  • An application component is developed once, and is easily reused and integrated elsewhere
  • Public availability of massive amounts of Mashup components, such as Google Gadgets, enables IT to build applications at a lower cost

All of these reasons make Mashups a popular choice both in the consumer space, as well as in the enterprise. In this blog, I will discuss how BEA is helping IT deliver on these initiatives.

The Novelty of Consumer Mashups

Need a beer in New York City? There's a mashup for that: NYC Beer Mashup
Want to stalk a celebrity? Here's a mashup that'll help: Celebrity Home Mashup

Amusing? Yes. Useful? Not so much.

The consumer web brought us Mashups, but I expect that more value from this approach will come from the enterprise. BEA has taken the lead on delivering products that will enable enterprises to create dynamic, user-focused, Mashup sites. Let me explain...

Back to basics - what is a Mashup?

You can define a Mashup web application in a variety of ways. Wikipedia starts with a broad definition:

"A mashup is a website or application that combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience."

You can tighten that definition as you like, but I think we need to recognize that this concept eludes a strict definition. I will suggest instead some common attributes that in my opinion are indicative of a Mashup web application:

  • The components come from applications that were developed and deployed independently without knowledge of each other

  • The components may be implemented using different technology stacks: Java, .NET, RoR, etc.

  • It is straight forward to snap the components together, without a heavy weight back end integration. Browser side integrations are acceptable.

  • The combined result provides a new useful way of using the components

  • Ideally, the user has some capability to define and customize the integrated application

On the consumer web, Google Personalized Home Page is a good representative of these characteristics. For example, you may build your personalized page with Google Map, Travelocity, Currency Converter, and weather gadgets to compose a travel planning mashup.

Building a Mashup

When assembling a Mashup, there are two types of software involved:

  • Mashup Composition: composes components into an integrated application. Portal frameworks and browsers often fulfill this role.

  • Component Producer: delivers the application component that surfaces on the Mashup.

When looking at WebLogic Portal 9.2, we will identify how it provides capabilities in both of these areas.

WebLogic Portal 9.2 Delivers Enterprise Mashups

An Enterprise Mashup is simply a mashup web application that is deployed to support an Enterprise, targeting it's customers, employees, or partners. WebLogic Portal 9.2 released in June 2006, and offers capabilities to support both Mashup Composition and Component Producer use cases for the enterprise.

To support Mashup Composition, WLP's portal framework serves as the aggregation framework that assembles the components into a unified application. WLP provides two features that enables this capability: URL portlets and WSRP portlets. URL portlets allow any arbitrary URL to be rendered in the Portal. WSRP is a standard that uses Web Services to accomplish the aggregation.

For the Component Production use case, WLP 9.2 introduced a technology called Adrenaline. Ths core capability offered by Adrenaline is unique to WLP amongst our competitors: HTTP addressable portlets. Any portlet can be exposed as a URL, which therefore enables WLP portlets to surface on external web applications using iframes or html streaming approaches.

The beauty of Adrenaline is that it works on top of the existing WLP enterprise portal framework. While competitors seem to view the Enterprise Portal and Enterprise Mashup spaces as separate, BEA WebLogic Portal allows IT to solve the Enterprise Portal and Enterprise Mashup use cases in a single effort with a unified product stack.

More Information

I will be covering this topic in far more detail in my webinar. Be sure to tune in to my Enterprise Mashup webinar on Wednesday, January 10th, 2007. A replay will be available if you miss the show.

For a visual look at why Enterprise Mashups are compelling, take a look at the demo movie that we have created for WebLogic Portal 9.2.

For technical information, review this Adrenaline Article.

Read more about the concepts behind Enterprise Mashups - I like Dion Hinchcliffe's discussion in this blog entry.


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