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BEA touts an 'enterprise MySpace'

Social software could be what SOA actually needs

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There may have been no new news to emerge from BEAWorld in Prague this week, coming as it did so soon after BEAWorld in San Francisco, but CEO Alfred Chuang gave a significant pointer to BEA's thinking for future directions. What is more, it is a pointer to where we may well see something approaching a 'killer app' emerging for SOA.

The direction in which he pointed was towards the way that developments in consumer-oriented social software are now creeping closer to the enterprise, and the fit between the two is starting to look closer than might have been expected.

For example, during Chuang's keynote, there was a short demonstration of BEA Guardian, the pre-emptive support and maintenance tool announced in San Francisco. This included a section where members of a notional `team’ are asked for input - facts, opinions and possibilities - that might help identify and resolve a problem with a manufacturing line. "A bit like an enterprise mySpace," said Chuang.

The company already has some projects, such Builder and Runner, that build on social software ideas. These have been in development some nine months already, though they are not expected to see the light of day until next year sometime.

But Chuang also said that there is a new culture coming along where a growing number of people in the user community will have grown up with the concepts of using virtual space. "Managing creativity in business has always been difficult," he said, "because business and creativity pull in opposite directions. Now, however, it will be possible to create communities within the enterprise that can work together."

He expects to see developments in this area coming along very quickly, which represents a challenge for the company: "we don't know what we don't know at the moment."

But with the coming of Web 2.0 it is possible that applications or tools developed with social use in mind could provide the basis of the killer application that will make SOA an absolute necessity for all enterprise users. I have already observed elsewhere that IBM's Secret Island project – based on the Second Life online virtual world - is one example of a likely candidate for the killer app tag, and it does not take too much imagination to see that mashup technology could be a powerful tool if operated within a properly managed enterprise infrastructure.

As an infrastructure supplier managing this would fall into BEA's lap, and VP of investor relations, Kevin Faulkner, indicated that the company is already working to identify the technologies that will be needed to support and foster such developments. One such is the future need for semantic search capabilities within the unstructured data that would be created by the likes of BEA Guardian. ®

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