Web marketing frog

Friday, November 25, 2005

Web services technology is drastically changing the integration of business applications

Web services technology is drastically changing the integration of business applications

A new paradigm is making its entrance, drastically altering computer architecture, software development, and the internal and external integration of business applications. We're talking about Web services, a technology that has already become greatly profitable for certain innovative, chiefly American, governmental and multinational institutions. Yet in Canada and beyond the American border, this phenomenon still seems to have gone unnoticed.
Web services offer a very different approach to generating business value with information technologies (IT). As opposed to technologies that have preceded them, Web services do not oblige companies to abandon the IT infrastructures they have accumulated over the course of preceding decades. Instead, they entail minimal modifications to existing equipment and software, which maximizes prior investments.

Web services are a collection of standards and protocols agreed upon by every computer manufacturer and numerous international standardization organizations. These standards favour universal communication between all development platforms, programming languages and business applications. Based on the XML language, this technology is composed of a series of protocols that are already, or on their way to being, established. The following protocols are currently in use by certain American businesses and have already been integrated into the software and computer material used by the majority of players in the industry: SOAP, UDDI, WSDL and XML standards. Web services are therefore the result of a particular momentum between the various major players in the computer industry who favour universal interoperability.

This technology, or rather this collection of standards, shifts the client/server architectural model to a distributed architecture paradigm. In other words, the Web service makes it possible to modify the program or application (Web services consumer) independently from the Web service in question. This is completely contrary to what exists in a client/server architecture. The client/server architecture requires high levels of integration (and considerable capital) from its different component owners. The main problem with this architecture is what is known as n 2 ( n-squared ), a problem that describes the exponential growth of costs created by the complexity of integrating numerous technologies. If you must connect two applications (in a client/server architecture), it would be done with the aid of a connection that takes into account the functionalities that are specific to each application. This solution is called an end-to-end connection. In the case of several applications that must all be connected together, the number of applications to integrate is ( n 2 ). In a Web service context, however, this is not the case. Moreover, it is not necessary to know the language, machine, operating system and all the other details usually needed to allow communication between the two extremities of the communication continuum.

Another interesting feature of Web services is the fact that once they are developed, the Web services interfaces may be used and reused as often as needed and may be recombined with other modules. This aspect of the interfaces makes it possible to centralize the complexity via the shared services without limiting the flexibility and access to the various networks that support the exchanges. This also introduces the concept of modular software development. A functionality developed in the form of Web services can now be recombined with a suite of other functionalities to create a new application. This functionality is, in fact, just one brick in a wall built of many.

Web services reduce the hassles and worries associated with the different “ lock-ins ”(1) that companies endure at the hands of computer systems providers. Added economic value is also gained with Web services from existing computer infrastructures and open platforms such as the Internet.

Finally, Web services take into account the diversity of a company's internal and external platforms and applications. They can create more business value by making the most of a company's internal/external duality, by enabling various computer and business resources to connect and communicate with each other. Web services are the computer industry's solution to the numerous commercial and technological annoyances brought on by the client/server architecture.

(1)- Lock-in : A company's dependence on an existing solution due to the inherent costs or logistical difficulties associated with changing solutions.

You can view a presentation I have given of this subject at the Conference Board of Canada during the Council on e-business innovation : Web Sevices Global Overview

you will also note that the backgrond of the presentation present Adviso Consulting. This is a company I used to own and that I sold a couple of months ago. I just started a new venture called Analyweb.

This article was originally written in French and has been translated by Wendy Wolbert

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