Wednesday, October 24, 2007

JackBe Closes $9.5 Million in Growth Funding

JackBe, a leading provider of mashup software, has closed on a new round of funding. This is a Series C round and should provide them the resources to continue building out their platform and sales engine.

I had the opportunity to speak with JackBe CEO, Luis Derechin, earlier this week. First, I have to publicly congratulate him on running (and finishing) his first marathon! I'm sure there are plenty of parallels to be drawn with running his business...

A couple interesting topics were discussed in our meeting. The first was the inevitable maturation of the market from widgets to platforms. Like many RIA vendors, JackBe initially focused on AJAX widgets and presentation layer accessories. Their business has grown into server-side mashup engines capable of integrating data from a variety of sources (databases, legacy systems, Web Services, etc.) and transforming the transports, payloads and data into easy-to-consume formats for Web 2.0 developers.

I believe that the mashup layer will quickly become an essential element in User Experience Reference Architectures (UE-RA's). The focus of older portal technologies is 'on-the glass integration'. Here, disparate data sources are pulled together as a set of portlets (or windows). Conversely, the Mashup Layer focuses on what I've been calling 'before-the-glass integration'. This enables new functionality to be inserted between consumers and providers (think clients and services), aimed at providing mediation and transformation services 'just in time' based on the context of the consumption.

Because this software is positioned squarely as a presentation layer-to-service go-between, it has the unique advantage of also enabling wide scale governance through policy visibility and control mechanisms. Think of it this way. Today we have 'mash-ups' tomorrow we'll have 'crash-ups'. Service interfaces will change, as will formats and protocols. This places new challenges on software configuration management and the overall governability of the Web 2.0 solutions.

We saw a similar trend in the SOA world where vendors who provided intermediaries had to make a decision. Are you the source of governance policies or the target? This is a fundamental question that each vendor will have to resolve. Said another way, will your tagline be "Mashup Governance" or "Mashup Enablement". That said, a key attribute of Mashup Enablement will be providing Policy Enforcement Points (PEP's), fed by governance vendors.

Over the last 5 years, many of us SOA-guys have put extensive thought into every aspect of the 'service provider' aspect, while neglecting the 'service consumer'. However, an acknowledgement that more advanced UE-RA's are needed will hopefully draw out other Enterprise Architects to surface a more in-depth discussion on this very important topic.

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