Wednesday, June 06, 2012

On Magneto

Lately I've been looking for quite a few small contracts - and it seems that Magneto is coming up quite a lot more than I would have thought.

I'm really excited by the new wave of open source commerce platforms - it's getting a lot closer to building a complete web of products. I've spent a lot of time on freebase, trying to describe content in Good Relations; and with google launching their Knowledge Graph, it seems quite likely that we'll see all of the google product information out there as structured content/content with URIs.

While it's not quite possible to say this is a completely solved linked data issue, we're a lot closer than we were before.

I guess the next areas we will start to see is linked data coming off the front end, and pushing into the backend systems.

This excites me - imagine a supply chain with end to end structured data, distributed queries to suppliers and automated acquisition of products.
Imagine accounting software integrated with your frontend, describing your customers in a structured way and being able to understand that a purchase made on "invoice 123" was for a consumable good.
If your account software stood up a queryable interface, you suddenly find yourself getting quite rich data back - feeding straight into business analysis tools.

Previously, this was the stuff of big data companies - but it seems on the cusp of becoming a reality within the next few years, as linked or services oriented data becomes much more prevalent.
In my last role, this took the creation of a data warehouse and several data marts, plus a dedicated business intelligence tool - and even then, this only got you some of the way, with red tape, politics, wrong/incomplete data modelling and infrastructure issues to fight through. If it's plain old HTTP (as most SPARQL endpoints are), 50% of those issues vanish immediately. If it's web oriented data in a graph form, another 20% of the issues just left as well - leaving most of the problems at the "I've got the data, what's interesting from it" level.

Recently, a friend highlighted that this is already happening in some areas. Web Ninja Magneto is a great example of this. It's not linked data, but it's providing APIs and integration which certainly beat the heck out of previous approaches I've seen - those mostly focused around CSV shaped data and legacy written as extensions to impossible to maintain accounts receivable applications.

If you take a look at what kind of magneto integration is supported, or take the tour, you can see it's already tackling everything you can think of - MYOB (MYOB Retail Manager, MYOB accounting, MYOB Exo), Quickbooks, Access, Excel, Fishbowl Inventory, Attache Accounting, Tencia, Ostendo, Jiwa and more.

Even better from my perspective, Web Ninja Magneto is an Australian company. How neat is that? If it's happening here, it's likely happening elsewhere in other markets too.

With the young interesting company approach, I can see something like this going quite far - and from there, it's only a matter of time before the needs of integration push people towards linked data style approaches.

What else have you seen in the small business world which hints at integration taking place? What else do you see as the potential to gather real business intelligence out of two related internal systems?

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