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Article by Mohan Babu


Web Services: Converting the Net into a business tool

As Web Services become established as a way of doing business, the Internet will be transformed into a true, dedicated business tool, believes Mohan Babu

In my previous column, I had talked about subtle technological innovations taking place even in the current downturn. Web Services is holding out promise of unprecedented interoperability and is hoped to move into mainstream business sector this year. With the rare joint-muscle of IBM, Microsoft, BEA, SUN and other biggies, this is perhaps a paradigm shaping up well. In 2001, a year of otherwise slow technological innovations, Web Services was perhaps the most talked about trend.

This year, preparing for a protracted slowdown, business leaders are asking their IT managers to justify the ROI (Return on Investment) on their software and hardware systems and those unable to justify the spending on their systems are getting the axe. Web Services herald benefits not only for in-house integration but also for collaborative B2B relationship, streamlining enterprise-wide operations.

Why the hype?

Use of Internet technologies by business users is growing rapidly, as enterprises look to the Web for increased operational efficiency and lower cost. Web Services are helping to significantly transform the Web for such business use. As Web Services become established as a way of doing business, the Internet will be transformed into a true, dedicated business tool rather than a medium to just publish data and information.

Web Services allow enterprises to implement business process and trading partner agreements over the Internet, using XML messages for input and output. The software defines a framework to publish and interact with Internet services that access application programmes directly, without browsers or HTML files. It can also provide access to standard library functions such as security, transactions, translation, search, credit card validation, catalogue management, logging, and so on, and entire enterprise applications can be assembled from them.

Betting on the trend towards collaboration in eBusiness, a set of industry standards is being defined to enable eCollaboration, grouped under the umbrella term Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI). While UDDI is independent of Microsoft’s .NET platform, most of the UDDI related activity was pioneered by Microsoft.

UDDI is based on an existing set of foundation standards that have themselves found widespread acceptance. These foundation standards include the following:

  • HTTP the standard protocol for communication over the Internet.
  • XML a widely accepted industry standard for packaging data in a tagged format.
  • SOAP a rapidly emerging standard (primarily led by Microsoft and IBM), for packaging client work requests and system responses as XML strings. SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol.

Where is Web Service used?

Web Service technologies are poised to be used in a number of applications, especially where different systems need to communicate with each other even while continuing to operate independently. At the Fortune 500 telecommunication company where I consult, Web Services technologies are already being used (in a phased manner) to provide “connectivity” to disparate systems. As with most large companies in the US, this Telco has grown over the years by acquiring, merging and building companies and business units. Each company that joined the fold came with its slew of legacy systems and technologies and the telco was content, until recently, to operate with a patchwork of systems. Realising the opportunity to optimise their network of systems, the executives approved a “pilot” to test the strength of Web Services.

The system uses a middleware messaging architecture and passes XML messages around with adapters to hook into the message “Bus”. The users of the system are already reaping the benefits of an integrated view of different systems. They avoid logging into individual systems and screens and the system automatically provides an integrated “view”.

The main advantage of Web Service lies in its scalability. Businesses can adopt a scaled migration to Web Services without jeopardising their existing systems, as would be the case if they were to adopt a big bang theory.

India’s role

Indians were at the forefront of e-commerce and dotcom technologies and a number of shrewd, business savvy techies immigrated to the Silicon Valley during the boom of the late nineties. During that time, Indian technocrats also proliferated in data centres and IT houses around the globe. With the immense knowledge base that Indian companies have built, it is hard to envisage a world where we will not have a significant role in innovative technologies. Added to this are the excellent networks and backbone for IT infrastructure that has already been laid in the Silicon cities in India. Whichever direction the Web Service industry moves, one thing is certain, Indians will have to be ready to observe the paradigm shift and prepare themselves in order to capitalise on the growth.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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