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Consumerization of IT and SOA integration

An odd phenomenon these days is the consumerization of IT, which WhatIs describes as the “blending of personal and business use of technology devices and applications.” Today’s armies of mobile device wielding business users are the most striking symbol of IT consumerization. But it is really not so new. People old enough to remember that Mork came from Ork can recall when the PC and the software spreadsheet were smuggled into the office to end the mainframe’s dominance of corporate computing.

Few application development managers are not affected by the mobile tsunami. They are now sorting through the costs and benefits of a new category known as mobile middleware, which has arisen to deal with mobile device diversity. As it turns out, mobile apps are a bigger problem for application development managers than was mobile email. They have to support every conceivable type of endpoint, and select between HTML5, native and hybrid programming schemes.  

The PC was a game changer. The same appears to be true of the smartphone, which recently crossed an inflection point, surpassing the desktop PC in unit sales. Equal as influences are social media, open APIs and app stores.

Social media applications that aggregate news and information have caused a big boost in use of integration middleware using “REST” and RSS-style services. SOA laid the foundation, but it is the simple REST version of SOA that is carrying integration development forward today, as seen in social media and mobile application development. Basically, REST underlies the big digital consumer success stories called Amazon, Google, Facebook and eBay, and their style of development is now penetrating the established enterprises, and software architects must understand how to build these modern style systems.

Now we are seeing a type of consumerization of IT integration that resembles the open APIs of the big e-commerce and social media sites. The idea is that you publish out APIs that let outsiders hook into your Web versions of your enterprise applications. Some SOA houses are building API management tool sets in response. They want their APIs for B2B to fly off the virtual shelves as the MP3s do at the iTunes store with which consumers are familiar.

Consumerization of SOA integration could be taken more broadly still. Seldom when you are calling, are operators actually standing by. The Web has enabled – some might say ‘condemned’ – the consumer to take over the role of key operator of yore. This requires teams to design and deliver much better applications and application interfaces than ever before. This is becoming more and more true as mobile devices flourish.

Again, aspects of the “new” consumerization of IT can sound like an old story. The notion that end users can, with the right tools, manage to meet the bulk of their programming own needs was heard in the days of the original Visual Basic, Lotus Notes and PowerBuilder. To a point it was true. We hear that now about open APIs. Is it more likely to be more true this time? What do you think? -Jack Vaughan

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