IBM alphaWorks Adds Two Web Services

Free offerings include a mashup maker for Ruby on Rails developers and a social networking content-sharing tool

IBM has added two new Web services to its alphaWorks Web site, which provides "sneak previews" of the kind of technologies that are being contemplated at IBM research and development labs. The new Web services include IBM Sharable Code, a platform for managing Web 2.0-type mashup applications, and IBM Web Highlights.

IBM Web Highlights is social networking-type of Web service that lets users highlight documents found on the Web for certain passages that they wish to share. The process starts when a user posts an article to the Web Highlights Web page and marks a section of text. Readers sharing the abstracted text can then comment on parts of it. The service works at the client level using an extension to the Firefox browser. At the server level, there's an option for a local server installation, if wanted.

IBM Sharable Code is a Web service that lets users create mashups or composite applications using the Ruby on Rails Framework. Users can mash up APIs such as Atom, REST and RSS using the service's Web application tools. The Web service works via a high-level domain-specific language, which is used to represent the mashup and its design. The user can then create downloadable Ruby on Rails applications that can be installed on a server and modified.

IBM Sharable Code is geared to the developer community, but even entry-level Web developers can use it, said Cynthya Peranandam, emerging-technology strategist for alphaWorks. It can be used to create business mashups, such as combining calendars and other information into a single application.

The best part of it is that it showcases the reuse capability of Ruby on Rails for developers.

"They can actually build mashups with this and bring in data feeds and create their own applications to integrate into the mashups as well," Peranandam said. "So they are not limited in the scope of what they can build. The whole thing is built on Ruby on Rails and the primary reason that it is built and focused on Ruby on Rails development is the whole component of reuse, which makes it easy to develop and deploy pretty quickly."

Ruby on Rails uses the DRY ("don't repeat yourself") approach to avoiding duplication in source code generation. It's a step up from using PHP for Web application development because it saves on development time, according to Peranandam.

"DRY is referred to in Ruby on Rails meaning literally can you just do this once and then reuse those components as opposed to PHP where you have to do extensive development to address the specific business need," she said. "So with the focus on reuse, you are saving a lot of time by reusing the components."

Users of IBM Shareable Code need to know how to use Ruby on Rails to use the applications and integrate them, Peranandam explained. However, the applications that they are integrating don't have to be created in Ruby on Rails. Users just log on to their accounts and build them right off the Web site, she said.

The alphaWorks site offers a range of technologies for free trial, and they can be used in business production, Peranandam said. IBM just hopes to get developer feedback, which is optional.

"Our goal is to get early adopters communities to use this technology and give us their feedback because that would really determine what the market opportunity is and if there is demand for it as a commercial product," she said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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