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In a recent article in Computing magazine Clive Longbottom of Quocirca was discussing the fact that, historically, SMEs found it too expensive and complex to build in-house applications but that the availability of mashups potentially changed all that. He went on to say that “I’m expecting more things like that—things that require no coding—to come along over the next few years. It’ll be just drag-and-drop and be based much more on process, which means that business people will be able to do it for themselves.”
Clive was certainly prescient because no sooner said than done, with the introduction of the Serena Mashup Composer product this week. This provides precisely the sort of graphical, drag-and-drop, process-driven environment that Clive presumably had in mind. The only exception is that Serena sees its market as much in departmental applications within large organisations (where the company has its main user base) as in SMEs. For example, you might want to combine information from Salesforce.com with manufacturing data from SAP to prepare a sales quotation or to build a holiday request application or you might want to link information across multiple, heterogeneous devices. Serena talks about these as “the long tails of IT applications” that are fundamentally simple, whereas historically IT departments have been focused on building complex applications.
However, perhaps the most interesting things about Serena Mashup Composer have nothing to do with its potential users or, indeed, its technological capabilities but lie instead with why Serena would do this in the first place and how it is going to market. Let me deal with the latter first.
The first thing is that Serena Mashup Composer, which is what you use to create mashups, will (it is currently in public beta), when it is released towards the end of the year, be free. In addition, Serena will be setting up the Serena Mashup Exchange, which will be an on-line marketplace for mashups. So, how is Serena going to make any money? By charging for deployment, either via the software as a service (SaaS) model that the company will be offering or, if you want to host mashups in-house, through its Mashup Server, which will provide facilities such as versioning, rollback, auditing, security and so forth.
The second issue is that you would not normally think of Serena as providing Web 2.0 development tools. After all, what the company does is application lifecycle management not development per se. However, it turns out that the company’s TeamTrack process management product has already been used by a number of existing customers to build just the sort of applications under discussion. What Serena has done is to take the orchestration facilities in TeamTrack and use these as the basis for Mashup Composer. Note that the key here is that sort of applications you are building don’t need any middleware: provided that the source applications you are linking are SOA-enabled then you can just draw a diagram that links them in the appropriate way.
This is clearly a departure for Serena and it will bring the company into competition with vendors (particularly integration vendors) that it is more used to partnering with. I shall watch its progress with interest.