Inside the firewall..outside the firewall – but the twain need to meet
I’m watching John Seely Brown’s plenary address at the 2006 Collaborative Technologies Conference, which is a wide ranging and fascinating talk on ways and forms of collaboration.
Lots of good stuff and plenty of blog activity around this and the other talks – but in many ways echoing (in a good way) what is rapidly becoming the conventional wisdom in our brave new world…mashups, Second Life, “honouring the emergent”, etc.
Something that did make me think though, was his description of how an Asian apparel company (Li & Fung) has a large number of suppliers (10,000+) that it has organised into loosely coupled supply and innovation networks where knowledge, practice and process are shared between companies.
Hmm…now the way I’ve generally thinking about collaboration, sharing, security, etc, has been fairly simplistic: there are essentially 2 situations – you’re inside a firewall, or you’re on the outside. Most available tools focus on the external world (technorati, del.icio.us, etc). Some companies are starting to think about replicating these tools and services within organisations (an external service probably cannot subscribe to, tag or bookmark internal content).
But how do we facilitate sharing and collaboration across a number of different companies ? The partners don’t have access each other’s internal space, and using an external service reduces their ability to reuse internal content (unless they want to copy it to an external service, and then keep it up to date – yuck). It also maybe implies a need to agree on a common set of tools (good luck !) – and suddenly they’re not very loosely coupled anymore.
So, is there (or will there be) a need for something like a reverse proxy architecture that allows proxying of interesting internal content (feeds, web content, web service calls) to authorised external services ? Or am I making up solutions to problems that don’t exist ? Or, even worse, am I misunderstanding something ?
[tags]ctc2006, collaboration, internal, external, collaboration, proxy[/tags]