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IBM, AccuWeather Put Weather in Your Hands

What's the forecast for wikis and mashups in the enterprise world? It's too soon to tell, but IBM and AccuWeather want to make sure it's clear and sunny.

AccuWeather is evaluating IBM's QEDWiki enterprise mashup development tool, examining how it might use it to funnel weather forecasts to customers as a subscription-based service.

One of the key building blocks of the emerging Web 2.0 world, mashups are composite applications comprised of two or more pieces of software working together to provide greater efficiencies for Web users.

QEDWiki is a software technology that enables mashups, providing business professionals widgets through which they can combine applications and connect to content, said Dan Gisolfi, an executive IT architect for emerging Internet technologies at IBM.

Together, IBM and AccuWeather will explore how they might build mashups to offer customers on a subscription basis, as well as establish pilot programs for their commercial clients to evaluate the AccuWeather QEDWiki widgets , or user interfaces, said Paul J. Raymond, senior product manager at AccuWeather.

"We're asked to create a Web application to meet a specific need, but a lot of times our clients don't know exactly how weather impacts their business, and they're asking us to help," Raymond said.

"With QEDWiki, we can go through some rapid prototypes internally, but if [customers] already know what they want and want to use the mashup directly, we're all for that also."

For example, Raymond said the IBM and AccuWeather are looking at how they might offer energy analysts and traders the ability to design applications that combine weather information with their enterprise software systems and other third-party data content.

The AccuWeather weather information will be available as "individual palettes" of data and display widgets, which can then be mashed up by QEDWiki users.

Weather-oriented information in the mashups could include temperature and precipitation; real-time local storm reports and severe weather watches; and tropical and marine forecasts, such as sea-surface temperature, wind speed and direction, and ocean wave heights.

Gisolfi stressed that the IBM-AccuWeather pairing is more of a "sandbox" arrangement than a business venture; because QEDWiki is a technology and not a product (yet), no licensing is happening at this stage.

And because mashups are so new to the enterprise stage, IBM wants to set up multiple sandboxes to educate customers and dispel myths.

"We're incubating it with partners and customers to validate, or invalidate, some of the assumptions or assertions around mashups," Gisolfi explained. He said IBM anticipates mashup adoption will accelerate in 2007, paving the way for endless subscription opportunities.

AccuWeather is the first vendor to play in the sandbox; Gisolfi said IBM is working with several other vendors for similar arrangements.

With QEDWiki's profile rising, IBM rival Oracle is hoping to gain traction with its own Web 2.0 development environment, WebCenter Suite.

The software maker launched the suite at its OracleWorld conference earlier this year.