What’s hot in 2008? Web 2.0 for the Enterprise?

As we step into 2008, the decibel level on Web 2.0 has gone very high, but mostly in the consumer space. We have seen remarkable progress in open API’s (e.g. Facebook, Yahoo, Google,..), proliferation of widgets/gadgets, and dynamic interactive web applications. As the pundits of Web 2.0 said, its all about harnessing collective intelligence.  User participation has been the crucial element. Flickr, Youtube, Slide, Twitter, Kyte TV, Podcast, Digg, Slashdot, dzone, Seesmic, wikia,….the list is unending.

But what about the enterprise? – those Fortune 1000 companies with millions of dollars spent every year on IT. Most of them are steeped in 10-15 year old client-server platforms with high cost and lack of flexibility. Most US companies are users of packaged applications, hence they depend upon the software vendors such as Oracle, SAP, etc. We find in Japan, much custom development still exists, and many Japanese companies (the likes of Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi, Toyota) have endorsed web-based applications to enhance usability and flexibility while reducing cost. Enterprises endorsing Web 2.0 technologies have been very few. What does it mean actually?

Just having blogs, wikis, tags, mash-ups, and social software does not yield obvious benefits to the business. The ROI piece is unclear. Many times, they are “solutions looking for problems”. The US market is more hype-driven and technologies are adopted because they seem cool. This is where one area comes as an obvious entry point for Web 2.0, called RIA (Rich Internet Applications).

RIA’s are all about enhanced user experience. Complex interactive visualization, minimizing clicks to complete a multi-step transaction, making information available with mouse-over, are some examples of improving aesthetics and user experience. This is an obvious area to move existing client-server applications to the “Web as the new platform” (a promise of Web 2.0). Big players like Microsoft (Silverlight) and Adobe (AIR – Adobe Integrated Runtime)  have joined the race for RIA. But they lack the critical dimensions of scalability, performance, and security, very important for large enterprises. Both these products have a multi-media pedigree and they seem to target that market. For example, Bill Gates announced this week at CES (Consumer Electronic Show), Las Vegas, that Silverlight will be used for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Another player is significant here – Curl. The Curl RIA platform (origins from MIT Research) is designed for high performance and scalability. There are over 300 customers using Curl for client-side technology for RIA. Curl is agnostic to server-side environment and can work well with J2EE, .Net, Weblogic, Websphere, Oracle, etc. It deploys a JIT compiler on the client and processes complex logic and user interaction very fast. Check the curl website for more info. Also check a recent interview I gave to Dr. Dobb’s journal on this subject.

In summary, the year 2008 will see increased adoption of Web 2.0 in the enterprise. But the door for this entry will be RIA (Rich Internet Applications) rather than mash-ups or blogs or wikis.


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