Mashups, SOA and Cloud Computing

It’s almost impossible to be around technology people for very long before one of them uses the words “Mashup,” “SOA” or “Cloud Computing.” When this happens to me, I usually smile and spend at least some of the time wondering why the audio portion of my brain disconnected again. Maybe it’s distracted by my visual cortex which almost immediately starts flashing a little neon sign that alternates between “get to the bottom line,” “is this for real this time?” and “can this do something for the business?”

I work around a lot of technologists, so I get a lot of technology buzz words hurled at me. I’ve gotten pretty good at reading between the lines to what they are really trying to say to me, but I have to admit that as I get older, my patience declines.

Today, I’m writing this both as a way to thank those technology weenies – in truth, we’d be suffering without them, and to lead into what I believe is an indication that technology is finally about to deliver on its promise.

I’ve embedded two videos below. Taken together, I think they summarize the technical portions of where the weenies (I mean this lovingly) are today.

I’m excited by this for a number of really good reasons: 1. We spend WAY too much on big central programs today that no longer have to exist in their Byzantine state – sucking resources from other needed programs and making us all feel guilty for pouring good money after bad. 2. entrepreneurial technology savvy problem solvers can now mix and match technical “building blocks” in ways that allow them to solve real problems in real time without breaking the bank or setting off security bombs. For them, agility is finally within reach.

Video # 1 is mostly about mashups, but the folks at JackBe do a great job explaining what these are and what SOA is about. With a little imagination, I was able to see at least a dozen ways that I could put these to work in an enterprise – and I bet if I did the math, that I could see hundreds of millions (I am not exaggerating) worth of tax payer savings as a result of employing this technology in lieu of the Byzantine central systems we have deployed (or have been trying to deploy) today. I could see, for example, being able to make financial data available in a mashup from legacy data sources to business leaders and decision makers throughout the DoD relatively easily. I could see sharing medical data (with the proper security service at work) with doctors between the VA and the DoD – with the DoD and managed care (civilian) providers. What possibilities do you see?

This second video (thanks to Henry Brown for posting to GovLoop) talks more about “Cloud Computing.” This version of the cloud computing discussion might be useful in thinking of new ways to budget for IT services in the future. Presuming we are capable of making the transition to mashups and a cloud computing model, how much might we save? You decide.

I’m not suggesting that we got it all wrong and need to throw away all that we’ve done in past years. I am suggesting that technology is evolving faster that we are. By the time we get some Byzantine system deployed, technology guru’s will be looking back at us, shaking their heads and maybe feeling sorry for us. We should be stacking these lighter, more efficient design models against our battleship design models and see what happens. The ingredients to do this already exist. We can only win for trying.

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