Web Services: Converting
the Net into a business tool
Services become established as a way of doing business, the Internet will be
transformed into a true, dedicated business tool, believes Mohan Babu
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Web Service used?
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.
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”.
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.
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.