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Mashup Creation Tools :: Security

Dion Hinchcliffe is tracking ‘DYI phenomenon’ of widgets and mashups. He considers five key issues for successful mashup creation tools:

1.    Ease of use
2.    Embody best practices in software development
3.    Support open standards
4.    Use a broad array of visual parts and non-visual Web services
5.    Will encourage social use and uptake. 

It’s completely true, Dion. However, I’d add one more critical key issue, ‘Providing Security Option’. Given the early state of mashups, they still lack robust security features. At least, they need better policing and control. Mashups may create a hole in your system because of low password security, easy access to private information, and so on. That’s why mashup creation tools should consider such issues. Data integration has never been easy, folks. So, we need to take security steps, before it’s too late.

Oh, ‘Two Point Oh…’

The numbers in ‘Enterprise 2.0’ are pronounced as ‘two point oh’, as Phil Wainewright has written in his blog. The variants ‘two dot oh’ or ‘two dot zero’ are wierd or incorrect. The survey conducted by Phil undergirds this way of pronunciation. So, the rules are as following:

·         Use ‘point’ when you’re talking about a decimal point in a number, e.g. version 2.0 or 16.9 percent (but not when the number is a sum of money, and if the position of the decimal point is obvious from the context, e.g. if your cup of coffee costs $3.49, you’ll be asked for ‘three forty-nine’). As with the money exception, it is also accepted usage to say just ‘two oh’ if the context makes it evident that what you mean is ‘2.0′;
·         Use ‘dot’ when you’re talking about a separator, whether between letters or numbers, e.g. a web address like zdnet.com is said ‘zdnet dot com’, and similarly a numeric IP address like 192.168.1.1 is said ‘192 dot 168 dot 1 dot 1′. This rule also explains why the name of an IEEE standard like 802.11 (Wi-Fi) is spoken with a dot rather than a point: as one commenter posted in response to my poll, “the IEEE stuff usually ends in a letter, but yes, also a dot for specs that don’t end in a letter like Ethernet, 802.3.” 

Also, there’s an interesting article in WikiPedia about using ‘dots’, ‘decimal points’ and ‘decimal commas’. I was surprised to know that the Chinese and Indians use an asymmetric distribution of comma separators (i.e., 123,4567.89 or 3,00,00,000). It is easy to get into a mess if you visit Asia, but I hope it would be clear about ‘2.0’, at least. =)

Hidden SaaS Costs

Here’s a good reminder from David Linthicum about hidden Software as a Service (SaaS) costs. Really, training, troubleshooting and outages do increase support charges, but this is not the whole story.

SaaS approach doesn’t completely avoid core expenses like software maintenance. A lot of companies need customizing and adding features which are critical to them. Such application integration may be not a zero cost yet necessary. 

And the bandwidth expenses, too. A company may require broader bandwidth to keep up with SaaS technology, which is an issue in areas where telecom costs are high.

So, don’t be naive while choosing SaaS services and keep your eyes on the ball. However, remember another reminder from David, ‘the other values of SaaS make it a compelling proposition’.

Raising Awareness via Viral Distribution

Tim O’Reilly compares free music distribution and free book publishing with open source software, again. The most interesting part is his quote about awareness:

“A lot has to do with the ratio of possible consumers of the free product who might be converted to paying customers to the total market size. If I have awareness with .01% of the target market, giving copies away to raise awareness to 10% of the market, where 10% of those might convert (1% total) is a good deal. But if I have awareness with 60% of the target market, and give my product away, with a 10% conversion rate, I’ve lost a great deal.” 

It’s hard to disagree with such statement, especially applied to software projects. However, some might think that proprietary model is for leading software vendors and open source distribution is for unknown SMBs only, but it’s not true. 

Open source model may be appropriate for companies of any size, whether they are large or small. The point is to define the niches correctly and to manage the awareness selectively. Some products may be issued according to a proprietary model and others according to a viral model. One can support another if it is accurately positioned. Watch the ‘proprietary’ market leaders and you’ll see how they learn from their open source competitors.

Tim also writes, “For many types of publishing, I absolutely believe that giving away free copies is the best way to build the market.” And I can’t help adding, for many other types of publishing the best way to build the market is not to give away copies at all.

Value Comes First

Matt Asay analyzes Tim O’Reilly’s post on ‘online promotion via viral distribution’ and comments: 

…We buy things because they’re useful (or because we’re mindless sheep that can’t say ‘no’ to a well-marketed brand - I do think some of this goes on in IT, generally, and certainly with open source projects, as well). Open source happens to succeed because it’s available (in the sense that it’s easier for me to download and try it out than a proprietary product - not because of source code availability, but because of the licensing/distribution model), and because quality undergirds that availability.

Perfect words! A number of vendors forget that the major feature of any product is the value, rather than free distribution. Users download programs to satisfy their needs, rather than to sit and stare at the beautiful yet useless interfaces. That’s the same reason open source community improves the code and adds new capabilities. For the sake of the value and valuable result that is guaranteed by the program. 

The value comes first. That’s why there’s no sense in expecting your product to bring you revenues if the very product is totally useless. 

RIA: Saving Costs and Increasing Revenues

David S. Linthicum has recently written a comprehensive article about Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). He claims four reasons to move toward RIA:

  1. Leverage dynamic behavior at the user interface
  2. Loosely couple the presentation layer and logic layer
  3. Provide both connected and unconnected modes of usage
  4. Improve integration for data residing locally and remotely.

And then, later in the text, he adds:

“The reasons you use RIAs are many, but most find that the ability to get the value of software without having to go through an installation procedure to be a huge benefit. You always have the best and most current version of the software, and you don’t have to update or maintain the software through its lifecycle. This is the value of SaaS as well as RIA.”

In other words, RIA intersects Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology and brings all its benefits.

However, I would lay the emphasis on another important reason, ‘Saving costs and increasing revenues’, which is not obvious sometimes. Technical benefits result in reduced bandwidth usage and so on, but the main point here is interoperability. RIAs allow vendors, customers and partners to collaborate in more effective way.

First, RIA integrates heterogeneous interfaces and reduces iterations in business processes, which increases productivity. Data integration provided by RIA technology enables users to interact with distributed applications no matter where they are located.

Second, RIA provides end-users with enhanced interfaces, which allows embedding more features and capabilities for company’s customers. For instance, RIAs help e-commerce clients control the steps of their orders, as well as simultaneously calculate shopping costs and make more informed decisions. These features allow businesses to add value to their services, reduce process abandonment and improve competitiveness or loyalty.

“The reasons are many”, but it’s all about the money, in the end. Anyway, David S. Linthicum is right, “What you see in your browsers will change forever, and more enterprise applications will be Rich Internet Applications.”

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