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Social Tools Go to Work…Facebook, MySpace, Netvibes, iGoogle, and More in the Enterprise


A company called WorkLight, Inc. is hoping to bridge the gap between the ease-of-use of the social applications consumers use at home and the complexity of the enterprise applications that are used in business. To do so, WorkLight isn’t just taking enterprise applications and adding web 2.0-like features, they are actually taking the social applications and tools that already exist and are adapting them for business use. Currently, the company works with fourteen of the most common social networks and social tools, including MySpace, Facebook, Netvibes, iGoogle, RSS, del.icio.us, and more to create enterprise-grade applications. The software, which was previously Linux-only, has now been made available for Windows servers, too.

Yesterday, we looked at the growing tech populism trend in IT, now let’s look in more detail at this specific example and see how WorkLight brings social computing tools into the enterprise environment.

What’s WorkLight?

The WorkLight software is a secure, scalable, server-based application that is what allows workers to view their enterprise data in any of a number of web applications and forms, both inside and outside the firewall.

The WorkLight server, which would run in the customer’s own data center, previously only worked on Linux platforms, but a Windows version is now available. (Note: their web site has not yet been updated with this information.) The architecture used to build WorkLight is standard Java and a J2EE framework, so it can be deployed on any J2EE-compliant platform.

How It Works

To extract the data from the enterprise applications and/or other internal data sources, WorkLight uses application “adapters.” These adapters can be for common interfaces, like SQL or web services, or can be designed for specific applications. The software comes with many standard application adapters “out of the box,” but an included API allows for custom-built adapter creation. Once the adapters are connected to the data sources, configuration is done, programming-free, via XML documents.

The company’s employees can then display the data through tools like RSS, web-based homepages, desktop gadgets, social bookmarks, application mashups, and more. In total, WorkLight works with fourteen consumer technologies: MySpace, Facebook, iGoogle, Netvibes, Microsoft Live, Yahoo widgets, Apple Dashboard, Google Desktop, Windows Vista Sidebar, del.icio.us, RSS, Google Gears, and Adobe AIR.

WorkLight Gadget Accessing SAP Data

Solutions

The company, WorkLight, Inc., has developed four specific solutions using their WorkLight software:

  • WorkLight for the Enterprise: This product is a scalable server-based application that can be customized for the business to deliver the enterprise data via tools like RSS, widgets, gadgets, personalized homepages, social bookmarking, and more.
  • WorkLight for Retail Banks: Designed to allow retail banks to deliver personalized data to their customers, this product uses tools like RSS, widgets/gadgets, personalized homepages, and IM to communicate information like account balances and transactions to the bank’s customers.
  • WorkLight for SAP: Similar to WorkLight for the Enterprise, WorkLight for SAP lets employees perform SAP-related business tasks using the same types of tools as WorkLight Enterprise.
  • WorkBook: This ingenious solution is a secure enterprise overlay for Facebook. This product combines Facebook’s capabilities with the controls that need to be in place in a corporate environment. Employees can use WorkBook to find and stay in touch with corporate colleagues, publish company-related news, create bookmarks to enterprise application data and securely share them with authorized colleagues, get updates on status changes, and get general company news. With the WorkBook overlay, there’s no danger of information leaking outside the organization or access being granted to unauthorized personnel.


WorkLight’s WorkBook application

So, It’s Secure?

The WorkLight solution provides security functionality so the enterprise data stays safe. WorkLight securely integrates the data with web-based aggregators, so no data is being stored on 3rd party servers. SSL encryption is used while the data is in transit and several different authentication methods are supported, including HTTP basic, form-based, multi-factor, or the company’s existing authentication schemes can be used, like single sign-on. The cached data on the WorkLight servers can be encrypted, if desired, and user requests for information are logged with time stamps, user info, and identifiers of the data accessed.

Conclusion

With WorkLight’s customized tools, businesses could increase employee productivity since the staff would either already know how to use the social applications and tools or would be able to learn them quicker than the traditional enterprise applications. Companies that choose to embrace this growing trend will ultimately be one step ahead of their competitors. Says Chris Shipley, executive producer of DEMO, where WorkLight was on display in December of ’07, “We are breaking away from putting technology at the center and we are putting people at the center who have the authority to influence technology.” WorkLight is certainly proof of this new shift.

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