As Published In
Oracle Magazine
May/June 2007

COMMENT: Analyst's Corner


Innovation Offers Developers Choice

By David Baum

Web 2.0 development brings new tools and greater collaboration to the enterprise.

Gene Phifer, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, talked to Oracle Magazine about trends within the Oracle development community—and the interest in Web 2.0 languages and techniques.

Oracle Magazine: What is the impact of Web 2.0 on developers?

Phifer: Developers everywhere are facing innovations such as Ajax, Ruby on Rails, mashups, and composite applications. For an enterprise IT department, the issue is not only how to use these tools but how to get them to work safely inside the firewall. How do you turn a mashup into an enterprise mashup? Mashups are easy to build compared to traditional applications, which is one reason they are often done willy-nilly. They often include sites that have no service-level agreements in place, which means you can't always guarantee the quality, accuracy, or timeliness of the data. Issues like these must be addressed before mashups will see wide-scale enterprise adoption.

Oracle Magazine: How is Oracle responding to Web 2.0?

Phifer: Oracle is implementing Ajax functionality into tools such as Oracle WebCenter—an important new product and a very important component of the Oracle Fusion Middleware stack. Within the Oracle Applications set, many composite applications will be delivered in a traditional compositing model that uses a repository of Web services that developers can certify through a registry and orchestrate with BPEL. There will also be high demand for more-lightweight composites, which will be solved with mashups. As Oracle WebCenter gains momentum, we'll see more-robust enterprise mashups appear.

Oracle Magazine: What differentiates mashups from composite applications?

Phifer: A mashup is a lightweight composite application that consists of two or more Web sites that have been combined. A mashup doesn't usually include back-end server components but merely front-end visual components, such as a Google map with a list of addresses that can be correlated over a visual landscape. While most mashups today are map-centric, we'll see mashups evolve to include many other types of applications. All you have to do is correlate two sets of data.

Oracle Magazine: Are these simpler, more accessible development techniques changing expectations for developers?

Phifer: Developers have always had interesting jobs in IT, and I see that getting only more interesting and challenging with the advent of these newer tools. Web 2.0 techniques shouldn't be seen as a threat but as an opportunity, because they expand developers' capabilities as well as highlight the valuable things that only trained developers can do. Thanks to these simpler tools and languages, novice developers and power users can take on low-value tasks yet deliver high-value results. Given the never-ending backlog that IT has to cope with, finding creative ways of delivering solutions that don't require heavy-duty programming is always great. Tools like Oracle WebCenter will help us meet that demand in a more comprehensive way.

Oracle Magazine: What is Oracle's commitment to the PHP community?

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Phifer: The jury is still out on which scripting languages the industry will choose. Clearly Oracle realizes the importance of being flexible; as long as the company remains flexible and supports multiple scripting languages in the future, this is not a big issue for Oracle.

Oracle Magazine: Where does service-oriented architecture [SOA] fit in?

Phifer: There are many paths to service-oriented architecture. Some require you to rethink the way you build and architect applications; others require more-tactical changes. For example, portals are a fast path to SOA because they are typically built using service-oriented techniques. The portlet model is based on the concept of portable software services, which are relatively easy to develop and deploy. We see the same thing with mashups. Understanding how mashups work supplies valuable insight into broader SOA strategies.

Oracle Magazine: What impact do social interfaces such as blogs and wikis have on developers, and how are they changing the way people build applications?

Phifer: Social networks and communities push the boundaries of online collaboration while revealing important concepts that developers can implement. The development community was one of the first subcultures to take advantage of social networks. These are important Web 2.0 concepts, and they are now influencing how developers build interfaces, which leads to greater collaboration within enterprise applications. 


David Baum (david@dbaumcomm.com) is a freelance business writer based in Santa Barbara, California.

Founded in 1979, Gartner analyzes, researches, and interprets vendors, technologies, and business processes in the IT industry.



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