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Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

Outward-Facing Services: Not Your Father's EDI

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Since I began this blog almost two months ago, I have mainly focused on the internal integration aspects of Web services and SOA. That's where everyone's attention is these days. However, there is just as much to talk about with external-facing service integration as well. And, sooner than later, most companies will be grappling with the challenges of deploying services to partners and customers.

The similarities and differences between internal SOA and external service deployments were recently explored in depth in a recent ebizQ Webinar by Jim O’Leary and Mark Denchy of Extol International, which I moderated. (A replay of the Webinar is available to all ebizQ members and is archived here.)

O’Leary and Denchy talked in some detail about the collaboration broker model, which serves a role similar to that of integration platforms such as WebSphere or BizTalk, but addresses partner integration issues, as well as non Web services communications.

It may be some time before Web services replaces traditional EDI, O’Leary pointed out. “We don’t expect that to happen in cases where there’s an existing EDI infrastructure,? he pointed out. “People have a tendency not to fix what’s not broken. And EDI is certainly very good at what it’s intended to do.? Where Web services will pick up traction, he said, is “for new systems, new B-to-B interactions. Informational requests that are non-transactional are very good fits in general for Web services.?

Many of the same tools and protocols used for internal SOA integration can also be applied to external-facing Web services. However, when it comes to requirements, O’Leary draws a distinction between external Web services and more internal SOA. “The requirements for Web services and business integration are really distinct from those that surface in a SOA context,? he said. “In business integration, we need Web services primarily for integration of partner and enterprise services and data resources, and also for exposing business processes as services for internal or external consumption. Generally speaking, you can consider requirements for Web services in business integration as a subset of those in SOA.?

What’s driving external service deployments? “Increasing rates of Web services adoption are being driven in mid-sized companies because of those supply chain pressures,? O’Leary said. He said efforts are being heavily influenced by “supply chain partners, particularly on the demand side, in driving mid-sized companies to adopt Web services for business integration, and that’s for both near real time B2B information access, and also for connection to internal applications, especially those offered by commercial application vendors.?

In this blog (formerly known as "SOA in Action"), Joe McKendrick examines how BPM and related business and IT approaches can promote business transformation.

Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. View more

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