There’s a revolution occurring in enterprises and it’s all about Web services producing a minimum 50% reduction in
total cost of ownership (TCO) and up to 3000% return on technology investment (ROI). Its use is moving from early adopter to early majority by early 2005. The most common usage is integration between mainframe (e.g. MVS OS/390, MVS z/OS, CICS), client/server, and Web-based environments (Intranets/Extranets/Internet). I spoke on this topic at Comdex Las Vegas to a capacity ‘enterprise’ audience due to the high interest.
As networking professionals, you will play a
critical part in its planning, design, and implementation.
Therefore, it is critical you understand the fundamental concepts
and technology/business model behind this revolution.
In this article, we outline: the advantages,
impediments, discuss examples, define Web services from a business
and technical perspective, and finally end with a roadmap for
Advantages to Enterprises
Web services are critical to strategic thinking
and planning, the organization and business models, and the value
chain and operations. Business models are heavily impacted by the
universal integration abilities of Web services. The integration
process occurs in three phases: internally, externally on a limited
basis, and then broadly through the Internet. Web services are
currently being used heavily for internal integration with external
integration gaining momentum in 2005/6.
Phase I integration occurs behind the firewall
on the intranet involving enterprise systems such as ERP and CRM;
legacy mainframe, client/server, and Web-based systems; and
aggregating applications sources for self-service portals. Next,
Phase II integration occurs with a limited number of customers,
suppliers, partners through your extranet. Ford and Dell are good
examples of companies in this phase. Finally in Phase III, this is
broadened to larger trading networks, e-markets, and the public
using the Internet.
Using Web services, your business becomes more
agile since you have microscopic and global visibility into all your
operations allowing quick adjustments. You will have faster time to
market for new product and services since the supporting
applications can be implemented 70% faster by re-using existing
Web services provide tighter relationships with
your customers, suppliers, and partners since it’s easier for them
to do business with you. Outcomes will include lower inventories
throughout the supply chain; improved data quality; better business
intelligence on sales and marketing programs; faster product design
through collaboration; and higher sales from streamlined delivery of
Overall, there are substantial cost and time
savings from lower development and maintenance costs; improvements
in productivity and efficiency through streamlined operations;
reduction in redundant applications and processes; cost savings by
not using traditional Enterprise Application Integration (EAI)
technologies; and savings by managing/reusing existing legacy
assets. Furthermore, resources can be redeployed for other
strategically important initiatives.
In addition, Web services allow you to expand
to new markets, sources of revenue, and business models by
redesigning business processes. For example, a large credit-rating
firm is using Web Services to expand revenues from small and medium
sized businesses. Web Services support portal initiatives and the
resulting improvements in self-service can offer new revenue
opportunities. T-mobile and Amazon are good examples.
Impediments to implementing Web services
Web services can be deployed over the Internet
which impacts reliability and availability. XML (extensible markup
language) underlies Web services so the bulkier text processing can
Moreover, the standards are still evolving
which affects interoperability however this is being addressed by
the Web Services Interoperability (ws-i.org) organization who
publishes profiles and guidelines to ensure interoperation. Two
major groups guiding the standards are the Organization for the
Advancement of Structured Information Standards (oasis-open.org) and
the World Wide Web Consortium (w3.org).
Added challenges come from the training
required on the technology and service oriented architecture.
Finally, can you trust a publicly available Web service discovered
dynamically without user intervention since trading-partner
relationships are typically based upon interpersonal exchanges?
Enterprise Business cases for Web services
Merrill Lynch used Web services to integrate
their CICS applications saving 96% over using integration-bus
technologies. They developed a Web services SOAP gateway to their
CICS environment allowing full access to the CICS applications with
no adapters required for their client applications. And, they saved
on licensing costs usually associated with EAI.
The Bank of Montreal is using Web services to
provide a unified customer view of the bank’s array of specialized
IBM mainframe applications such as savings, loans, and investments.
The US government in their single portal,
E-travel system, is providing centralized travel management saving
300M annually, yielding a 70% reduction in processing time, with an
estimated 650% ROI. The system is using Web services to provide a
single reservation system integrating a myriad of travel care
providers, reservation/voucher systems, travel agencies, and travel
payment reimbursement systems.
ATT connects their TIRKS (Trunks Inventory
Record Keeping System) first developed in 1960, to more than 100
other applications using Web services resulting in a 78% saving in
maintenance time. Prior to using Web services, any changes to TIRKS
resulted in changes to the 100+ applications.
Wachovia, a financial services giant, is
providing a consolidated view of customer information using Web
services to access numerous legacy CICS/DB2 backend systems.
Furthermore, Web services allow support for browsers, rich clients,
interactive voice response systems, pagers, and wireless systems.
Dunn and Bradstreet (D&B) and Swiss Interbank
Clearing (SIC) use Web services, replacing EDI (Electronic Data
Interchange), to provide improved services to their clients. For
example, SIC clears most cheques written in Switzerland. Using EDI,
the process could take up to six days in contrast to the one day
using Web services.
In a recent discussion, Michael Liebow, Vice
President of Web Services for IBM's Global Services Division,
provided added examples of mainframe integration. These are
Arkansas Blue Cross
and Blue Shield and its affiliates generate 12 million manual
contacts (phone, fax, e-mail) annually. Arkansas Blue Cross wants to
replace the inefficient tangle of phone and paper-based transactions
with direct, secure and HIPAA-compliant processes. Web services
applications will put billing and claims processes online, bringing
an anticipated 50 percent reduction in its 12 million manual
contacts, as well as a 20 percent increase in efficiency in filing
and processing claims.
Miami Dade County is
already using Web services projects to improve government operations
and enhance the services it offers to its citizens. Web services
will allow 40 departments to reuse existing mainframe functionality
as they build new e-government applications. For example, Web
services allow contractors to apply and pay for building licenses
and permits online and the information is automatically directed to
the appropriate building inspectors. Web services also power its new
311 non-emergency information phone number. It will be the key in
providing operators access to all county information -- regardless
of what system it is sitting on -- to answer callers' questions.
includes more than 21,000 members, 396 million cardholders and
millions of merchants in the U.S. It's no surprise that the company
must deal with charge-backs and dispute-resolution as part of the
normal course of business.
The company's most recent Web services project, Resolve Online, lets
banks resolve charge-backs over the Internet and automates the
dispute process over its network. Now, most cardholder disputes will
be resolved within just one billing cycle.
provides innovative retail and commercial financial products and
services to more than 300 regional banking offices, and has been
serving the financial needs of its customers for more than 137
years. Over the past decade, Huntington Bank experienced significant
growth through acquisitions and increased cross sales, which led to
a more complex IT infrastructure to support a diverse mix of
products, services, and delivery channels. Implementing advanced Web
services technologies, Huntington was able to drive customer
information across lines of business at every delivery channel and
reduce redundant software by 60 percent. By streamlining their
application infrastructure, the Bank has reduced maintenance costs
and can now take a more focused and strategic approach to future
software development. Web Services also allow the Bank to have
instant access to all their customer data, which reduces the amount
of time customers spend on the phone with customer service
representatives. Other Web services related savings come from ease
in deploying, maintaining and upgrading systems.
What are Web services (WS)—a
Picture Web services as applications exposed as
standards-based services. More than 100 open-source and commercial
toolkits are available allowing applications developed under any
environment to be easily (somewhat automatically) exposed as Web
services. These services can be used by other applications bridging
internal applications or across trading-partner supply and demand
chains. Using intranets and the Internet, any system can easily
connect with any other system. Web services allow business process
management (BPM) permitting different platforms such as SAP and
Oracle to exchange information. Moreover, Web services provide
real-time visibility into all aspects of the business value chain,
demand chain, supply chain enabling business activity monitoring
(BAM) alerting users to imminent problems. Web services enable the
collection and computation of analytic information and optimization
through the evaluation of complex “what if” scenarios.
What are Web services (WS)—a technological
This time picture Web services as an
application program interface (API) based upon XML (extensible
markup language), and open standards—a WS-API. Web services can be
built from an existing application simply and easily using one of
the many available toolkits. Since it’s standards-based with all
major vendors in agreement, a WS-API supports
application-to-application communication (APPC) from any system to
any other system across an internal intranet or across the Internet.
This allows loosely coupled connections, services reuse, and
combining services into composite services.
WS-API loosely-coupled connections are
flexible, not brittle and do not break when applications are
modified. Changing one application doesn’t require rewriting
connected applications much like in the AT&T TIRKS example. No
expensive integration middleware, integration-bus technology, or
adaptors are required to connect different systems.
In addition, once a Web service is created, it
can be reused. For example a travel reservation service can be
reused in the following ways:
1) To provide business intelligence (BI) by
analyzing reservation trends in a BI application;
2) To provide customer service representatives
with customer travel reservation history in a CRM application;
3) To allow customers to make travel
reservations and obtain reservation status information through a
self-service travel portal;
4) To allow management reporting on
Composite services are formed by the combining
of services. This permits business agility or the quick reaction to
new trends and business needs. In addition, end-to-end business
processes can be modeled and automated.
Because Web services are based upon XML, they
allow universal connectivity and interoperability between
applications of any type. And this is across platforms, operating
systems, and programming languages. The use of XML provides a
standard way of representing data, understandable by all systems,
vendors, and is human/machine readable as illustrated in this XML
Web services are founded on universally
recognized standards. The primary ones are HTTP, SOAP, WSDL, and
UDDI. HTTP and SOAP are used to communicate with a Web service. WSDL
is used to describe a service, can be auto-generated from service
code, and it can be used to auto-connect with a service. UDDI is
used to register Web services so they can be found and then used,
even automatically. A more in-depth description follows.
HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is used as a
transport for message exchanges with a Web service. Protocols such
as SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol), FTP (File Transfer
Protocol), and others can be used however HTTP has the advantages
that it’s the same protocol for seeing web pages, goes through
firewalls, and is widely supported and pervasive.
SOAP (formerly Simple Object Access Protocol)
is now just a name as of version 1.2. It is the XML-based envelope
used to hold message exchanges with a Web service. The messages are
typically XML documents containing business information or method
(service) calls. SOAP is valuable in its own right since it can be
used as a messaging system for generic enterprise application
integration (EAI), replacing the need for expensive messaging
software or middleware. An added advantage of SOAP is that it can be
automatically generated by the Web services toolkits. Moreover, SOAP
can be extended for added capabilities such as security, management
and is supported by all systems and vendors.
WSDL (Web Services Description
Language--pronounced Wiz Del) is used in WSDL documents. WSDL, which
is automatically generated by Web services toolkits from application
code, describes in a human/machine readable form: what a service
does; what operations it can perform; how you communicate with it;
and where it’s located. WSDL describes the Web services’ interface
in a standardized way that can be understood and used by anyone from
any development environment (Java, C#, VB, COBOL, etc.) without
requiring knowledge of the internal workings of the software
component. You can think of it as a generic API design document
allowing code reuse—a COBOL programmer can easily use a Java
component for example. You can also use an application’s associated
WSDL document to auto-generate the Web services connection code for
the client software.
UDDI (Universal Description Discovery and
Integration) offers the ability to submit and register Web services
in a private or public registry so they can be manually or
programmatically/dynamically (automatically) found and then used.
UDDI provides the ability to describe: the owner of the software;
contact information; the services offered by the software;
information on how to use it; and where it’s located. Furthermore,
UDDI provides the ability to do searches based upon categories.
Using a ‘Phone Book’ analogy, you can think of a UDDI registry
consisting of searchable: white pages listing business info; yellow
pages categorizing services; and green pages containing the
technical details about what the service does, how you communicate
with it and where it’s located. Public UDDI registries are offered
by companies such as Microsoft, IBM, and SAP. A private UDDI
registry allows a company or trading partner network to list
available Web services. This provides an added function as a
software catalog to allow reuse and prevent duplication—to manage
your software assets.
A Roadmap for implementing Web services
Here are some guidelines if you wish to
implement Web services:
- Gain knowledge on Web services technologies and
educate at all levels to realize the strategic and operational
opportunities that result in reduction in TCO and provide a high ROI.
- Create a center for excellence that promotes best
practices, technology reuse, development patterns.
- Look at what you are doing, what platforms you are
using, conduct an application inventory.
- Look to see what others are doing.
- Define standards/policies/guidelines on how you will
conduct your Web services implementation.
- Look for service candidates with the greatest impact.
For example: recurring processes involving many users; areas where
there’s dynamic or continual change; business processes involving
many manual steps or manual intervention; or areas where you can
consolidate views to increase employee productivity.
- Pilot an internal integration project.
- Fine-tune your standards/policies.
- Repeat steps 1 to 7 using Web services to integrate
your internal systems as much as possible.
- Try a few of your closest trading partners –
prioritize to the top 20% who affect 80% of your revenues.
- Expand to a broader market only when the standards are