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RIA & Ajax: Article

Adopting Web 2.0 into the Enterprise

Table stake requirements

Within the past few years, Web 2.0 has become a major technology trend, dramatically impacting the way consumers interact with information and applications. This consumer trend is now extending into the enterprise; however, businesses have been more reluctant than consumers to adopt these new technologies. The Business tools of the ’90s have not kept pace with the Web revolution. For Web 2.0 technologies to garner adoption in the enterprise, new requirements must be met.

A recent survey of IT professionals found that 90 percent of participants see building Web-based internal applications as a high priority, yet 82 percent are having difficulty doing it. Unlike the consumer world, new business tools must meet the requirements of CIOs. Those requirements include the ability to meet existing policies, leverage existing IT investments, and respond rapidly to changing business needs.

Meeting Policy Requirements
Any tools brought into an organization must conform to the architecture, data, and security policies established by the CIO. Maintaining reliability and manageability of the infrastructure depends upon standardizing on an enterprise architecture, typically either Java EE or .NET. Development tools that don’t align with these standards (i.e., “rip-and-replace” platforms) have little chance of acceptance within the organization.

Modern CIOs face an ever-increasing challenge to comply with government and corporate regulations around security. These include internal privacy guidelines as well as external policies mandated by SOX, HIPAA, Gramm-Leach-Bliley and others. Significant effort has gone into implementing IT controls to conform to these policies, and any tools that fail to integrate with security standards simply will not be acceptable.

Maintaining control over data in a Web 2.0 environment seems to be an oxymoron! Web 2.0 is characterized by the democratization of content. Finding, updating, and acting on operational data defines the business application. Yet, data is at the very heart of IT’s compliance and security concerns. For CIOs to accept Web 2.0, development tools need to bridge these expectations.

Finally, CIOs will no longer accept proprietary, “black-box” solutions that lock them into a single vendor for the life of the tool.

Leveraging Existing IT Investments
CIOs have invested huge amounts of time and budget in developing their infrastructure. They want to ensure that any new project takes advantage of work that has come before. They want the efficiencies of reuse and to avoid starting over. In the past, most rapid application development (RAD) tools were complete, standalone platforms that were unable to utilize existing infrastructure. They required their own security mechanism, or yet another server – as well as the incremental resources to maintain them.   

Today’s CIOs look for development tools that leverage their infrastructure, integrating seamlessly with, for example, existing security systems or identity management systems. They want to take advantage of existing and approved server infrastructure such as Java EE and Apache.

Often overlooked, the most critical investment CIOs have made is the knowledge, skill sets, processes and tools of the current staff. Unfortunately, many Web 2.0 technologies (like Adobe Flex or any of the numerous AJAX frameworks) require new skills and tools. CIOs look to solutions that build on their existing team’s knowledgebase to reduce the cost and risk of new projects.

Moving at the Speed of Business
Business is rapidly moving and ever-changing. CIOs serve the needs of the business and must react quickly. A lot of the business applications aren’t expected to live more than a few months. Yet it can take three months (or more) to deliver them using traditional Java tools. Alas, business team requests for new applications receive a resounding “no” again and again.

CIOs want tools that can meet the timetables that business demands and deliver new, improved applications. The requirements are quick ramp-up, rapid deployment, and the ability to iterate as business needs change. Sometimes, CIOs relax standards for the promise of a “short-lived” application. It is often exactly these “temporary” applications that end up living forever.

Underlying these requirements is the need for a different approach to development. RAD tools of the ’90s proved that developers could be efficient using visual assembly, eliminating the time-consuming process of writing and maintaining thousands of lines of code. In the rush to the Web, that concept has been lost. It’s time for RAD to return.

The shift from client/server computing to Web-centric computing has brought amazing changes over the past decade, fundamentally transforming the way business operates. Web 2.0 promises to bring the same level of change over the next few years. Web 2.0 technologies have only recently reached the level of maturity required to receive consideration within the enterprise. The tipping point for the adoption of Web 2.0 in the enterprise will come with the arrival of visual development tools that meet the requirements of the CIO.

More Stories By J. Todd Hay

J. Todd Hay is vice president of marketing at WaveMaker Software. He has more than 15 years of technology, sales, and marketing experience, most recently leading Adobe's RIA platform marketing strategy and next-generation Flash and PDF technologies. He was also a former General Manager at BEA Systems, where he launched the company's Enterprise Security line and drove new revenue opportunities.

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