Nothing has increased the tangibility of service-oriented architecture and cloud computing to the masses more than Apple Computer's highly vaunted “app store.” With the online app store available to iPad, iPod and iPhone users, end users can select from a large assortment of apps, which are certified to be well-tested, well-vetted, highly secure and in strict conformance with Apple's standards. Nothing rogue, nothing that will break your computer.
When you think about it, it's a great concept for those contemplating the best ways to validate and deliver services throughout their own enterprises. Why not a dedicated, internal “app store” for use by various users and departments in the enterprise?
In fact, the federal government is doing just that—running an app store to supply services and software to its agencies. Apps.gov, administered by the General Services Administration (GSA), intended to make it easier for federal government agencies to buy approved cloud applications.
Recently, JackBe, an enterprise mashup vendor, released a platform that provides a way to create internal enterprise app stores. The JackBe release quotes Mirko Minnich, CTO and SVP of Elsevier Health Sciences, who said: “I believe every enterprise will ultimately adopt the App Store as the primary model for delivering information in the future.”
I recently had the opportunity to chat with John Crupi, CTO of JackBe, Deepak Alur, VP of engineering, and Chris Warner, VP of marketing, about their vision for the internal enterprise app store. One of the magic words they apply to their offering, in which end-users and developers build and submit their services to an app store manager, is “governance.” Governance has long been one of the quagmires that has throttled SOA efforts within many organizations. SOA-based infrastructures have either been subjected to rogue services that overtax servers, quashing enthusiasm with too much rigidity, or else lack of adoption due to services getting lost in the tangle.
Alur says that the app store manages different personas, enabling developers one form of access, versus administrators or end-users.
“The older approaches of doing everything under the covers—behind the infrastructure—was very tedious and time-consuming,” he says. “For example, to provision a new service would take a lot of effort from IT developers, operations, everyone involved. But if you have horizontal services that IT is governing and providing, and quickly create higher-level mashups that are exposed through our hub as a user-friendly registry, being the place where people go to find things and start building stuff.”
Apple seems to have worked its magic on the governance of services with a systematic model for assuring that services contained within the app store meet their criteria while simultaneously encouraging the creation of an enthusiastic ecosystem that contributes to the venue.
Is the internal app store something worthwhile considering by insurance companies? Imagine agents, for example, logging in and being able to access services such as application processing or customer verification. Or the benefit of internal departments being able to access services to help in claims processing or managing claims adjusters in the field.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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