Web services business process protocols remain in their infancy. The closest to widespread acceptance is BPEL4WS (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services), introduced by IBM and Microsoft more than a year ago. Eventually, the industry must adopt Web services standards for orchestration, which will help define “tools for using business rules to compose Web services together,” according to BEA’s Dietzen. That standardization is years off, he says.
Meanwhile, limited SOA deployments are already benefiting from Web services management software’s capability to handle the underpinnings. Actional’s Foody lists QoS, versioning, routing, security, logging, monitoring, and root-cause analysis as key functions that Actional’s Web Services Management Platform handles. He also offers a good example: “If I publish a service on an SOA for bond yield calculation and 20 different users across the organization start to use it, how do I version that service? How do I make sure I’m meeting service-level agreements? How do I deal with fail-over? People like us are providing solutions.”
Web services management software rollouts tend to start small. Last fall, Sony Broadband Services Company chose Blue Titan’s flagship Web services management software, Network Director, to manage a nascent SOA dubbed Web-X (no relation to the collaboration software). “Web-X is designed to reliably connect distributed, loosely coupled Web services,” says Bernard Lin, senior director of Broadband Services and the system’s champion. He also praises Network Director for making deployment easy.
The first service, put in production last March, was a keyword lookup system that eliminated redundancy across Sony’s vast array of Web sites. Network Director handled the authentication, QoS monitoring, and SOAP message routing. “We are committed to an open standards approach to building out service-oriented architectures,” Lin asserts.
According to Blue Titan Vice President of Marketing Sam Boonin, Sony eventually wants to use Web services and SOA for integrating everything from its supply chain to real-time interactions with consumers who use Sony handheld devices.
Enterprise pain relief
Such grand schemes remain in the distant future for most companies. The first jobs on the docket tend to be solving problems that have bugged IT for years.
Sutor has uncovered two popular areas of Web services adoption in his surveys of IBM customers: SCM and integrating the call center into the rest of the enterprise application infrastructure. Steven VanRoekel, director of Web services marketing at Microsoft, notes that he’s seen lots of Web services development around legacy systems.
Cindy Stoddard, CIO of transportation giant American President Lines, falls in that latter group. “Service-oriented architecture and Web services, that’s what we’re evolving to. As we develop new applications, that’s our chosen architecture. Especially to interface with some of the legacy applications that we have on the mainframe.”
Her other plan of attack is to automate prosaic business-to-business interactions involving fax, phone, or mail. “We’ll work with our other business associates in the supply chain, really to eliminate as much paper as we possibly can. That’s what the goal is,” Stoddard says.
Conway, another major transportation player, has similar b-to-b aspirations. According to Jerry Hilts, a systems analyst at Conway, the company already shares logistics information via EDI and XML but plans to wrap the XML interfaces in Web services protocols for easy consumption.