Paving The Way For Web Services - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Software // Enterprise Applications
11:10 AM
Connect Directly

Paving The Way For Web Services

Service-oriented architectures let companies lay the foundation for software that is fast to write, easy to integrate, and runs on a range of platforms.

EXP Pharmaceutical Services Corp. is in the business of collecting drugs that have exhausted their shelf lives at hospitals, doctors' offices, or drugstores--and destroying them. That way, potent drugs don't find their way onto the black market. EXP also ships drugs back to manufacturers for a refund or credit to the purchasers, who eagerly await word of their reimbursements.

To get the reimbursement amount out to customers, EXP Pharmaceutical, a $15.4 million-a-year company, is building Web-services software, due to come online next month, that will provide that reimbursement information to drug wholesaler McKesson Corp., a big customer. The application will let McKesson get reimbursement information within a week of a drug's being returned--called "reverse distribution"--instead of the month or two currently required. That could make it less likely a competitor would steal away a valuable customer, since EXP could provide the fastest and most accurate information.

A service-oriented architecture lets EXP meet customers' needs, IT director Brent Siler says.

A service-oriented architecture lets EXP meet customers' needs, Siler says.
Looking toward future Web services, EXP is basing its customer information system on a service-oriented architecture, IT director Brent Siler says. After meeting McKesson's needs, EXP plans to extend the software to hundreds of customers next year. Without the service-oriented architecture, the company would struggle to meet customers' information needs, Siler says. With it, he says, "there's nothing that we can't do."

Service-oriented architecture--SOA for short--has crept into the marketing language of BEA Systems, IBM, and Sun Microsystems, over the last year. IBM, for instance, markets its WebSphere middleware, Tivoli systems-management software, and DB2 database products as containing technologies that let them fit into this kind of architecture. Microsoft is stepping up an effort to educate software architects at companies about issues including SOAs--it corresponded with or spoke to some 200,000 architects last year, general manager Charles Fitzgerald says. The goal is to get companies designing apps that can connect systems that don't share common operating systems and object models.

IT executives say it's more than just a buzzword. Adopting a service-oriented approach to software development can ease the path to future Web services, users say. Web-services software lets business units easily forge online relationships with partners, without requiring IT to undertake lengthy development projects for each new request.

For the businesses that use them, service-oriented architectures provide a way of converting existing software into a set pattern of software components and networking protocols that can create a Web service. This kind of architecture can also provide a foundation for future apps built that way. When implemented right, service-oriented software can speed up application development, let companies reuse more code, and provide more-standardized, less-proprietary means of integration among apps.

"With a service-oriented architecture in place, we could bring ideas to market much faster," says Scott Preble, chief architect at Limited Brands Inc., which owns Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, and other retailers with frequently changing product lines. A service-oriented architecture "is really about moving business to real time," he says. Limited is still exploring the best way to implement its approach, he says.

A key advantage is more-rapid development of Web services. Instead of starting from scratch, developers already have a set of building-block components they can tap without dismantling or extensively reengineering other applications. And with a little tinkering, the components can be exposed on a Web server. Companies can also use a variety of programming languages and get the parts to work together smoothly, instead of building large blocks of code in Java, C#, or C++. That lets companies put less-experienced programmers on the case and lets them use Microsoft's Visual Basic or a scripting language, instead of high-level languages.

The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., an $18.7 billion-a-year insurance and benefits company, has been using service-oriented architectures for three years "in pockets around the company," CIO James McGovern says. Software architects studied the departmental efforts and decided that service-oriented architecture would bring long-term benefits to the firm, such as cutting development costs.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
1 of 2
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
CIOs Face Decisions on Remote Work for Post-Pandemic Future
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  2/19/2021
11 Ways DevOps Is Evolving
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  2/18/2021
CRM Trends 2021: How the Pandemic Altered Customer Behavior Forever
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/18/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
Flash Poll