The glory of mashup technology is that it's inherently simple. By connecting feeds from multiple sources – say, Google maps and Craigslist rental listings – a developer can quickly create a site that shows exactly where an available apartment is located. Or by combining data streams from eBay and Google maps, you can find all autos for sale on eBay near you.

The benefits of these easy-to-create services aren't peculiar only to consumers – and many enterprises are aware of the need to combine and share data without a huge IT investment. So at the IBM Impact conference in Las Vegas, IBM launched new tools to help non-technical users to create, deploy and share customized Web applications in minutes.
There are two pieces: the IBM Mashup Center, which the company says will go into beta on April 15, and the IBM WebSphere sMash, a development environment which incorporates dynamic scripting languages (downloadable today at www.projectzero.org). Both, say IBM representatives, include the management, security and governance capabilities that IT departments require.

Don't take that description as an implication that your next mission-critical application ought to be built with mashups. However, says Larry Bowden, Lotus vice president of portals and integration services, there are twenty times as many people able to create mashups using these lightweight, browser-based components than there are developers to create critical departmental applications. The IBM Mashup Center, Bowden says, lets departments create self-managed tools by assembling and creating what they want-but still with IT support.

The browser-based tool includes a set of pre-built business widgets, a widget builder, and a catalog to store and share widgets and mashups. A company can use publicly available widgets or create its own, each with community features like ratings, tagging and user comments. Data can come from all sorts of enterprise sources, from Office documents to Information Management System (IMS) databases, and is stored in RSS, ATOM or XML formats.

IBM has also submitted a standard called iWidget to support interchange between Widget projects, said Jason McGee, distinguished engineer and chief architect of WebSphere sMash.

IBM WebSphere sMash is a development environment that creates output from Domino Designer in the form of a standard widget. It's focused on leveraging dynamic scripting languages, especially Groovy and PHP, using the open-source Dojo toolkit, employing RESTful approaches-and, unsurprisingly, with the promise to extend the reach of SOA. The environment includes a framework and programming model to easily create data feeds for mashups, according to IBM.

A community edition of WebSphere sMash can be downloaded for free at Project Zero; the commercial platform, says IBM, will be available in the second quarter on a per license basis from IBM and its partners.

With about 200 competitors in the market for Web 2.0 and mashup development, IBM executives acknowledge, some IT professionals may wonder where IBM fits. Most of the existing companies are focused on building specific components, said Bowden, without attention to integration. Plus, added Kareem Yusef, director of product development for sMash, IBM can offer enterprises "innovation in a safe haven."