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Managing Enterprise Data Complexity Using Web Services: Part 2

Developing enterprise digital dashboards using data services architecture

Data Access Tier
The core data-integration functionality is implemented by the data access tier. This data access tier will focus on the various issues and challenges discussed in detail above. While most conventional data integration solutions result in a number of touch points between the business logic and the integration logic, Web services provide a loosely coupled and extensible solution wherein different types of data sources can be integrated with the EDD without requiring many changes to the existing functionalities. The solution to the aforementioned problems is to provide a consolidated view of data across the enterprise by eliminating multiple channels of update of data and providing a single suite of applications to access/update data. The implementation of this suite of applications as services would eliminate any lock-in on protocols and integrate easily in a heterogeneous environment. Specific aspects of the new architecture would need to address these issues as follows:

  • Provide a composite view of data tailored to business processes and usage patterns
  • Develop shared data services that can retrieve information for a set of related applications
  • Design service contracts based on the needs of individual LOBs/client applications
  • Provide information on demand (in response to service requests) by optimizing performance and caching heavily accessed data
  • Enforce data security by authenticating invocation clients and protecting against unauthorized data access
  • Enforce all updates through the data service layer in order to guarantee data consistency across all systems
Dashboard Tier
The enterprise dashboard provides the user interface and takes care of other non-functional tasks such as security, internationalization, scalability, availability, and caching. This allows incremental adoption of the Web services strategy, which is a big attraction for organizations that have a huge IT infrastructure to migrate. A Web services-based architecture that leverages the improved data access mechanism is shown in Figure 2. The specific characteristics of the overall architecture are as follows:
  • Web services that are created for the purpose of providing functionality in a loosely coupled, implementation independent manner. These implementations will leverage the core business logic in the existing applications.
  • A centralized database that maintains data common to multiple lines of business and geographies.
  • A set of services that manage data access/update for all databases; these services will manage all data access/update and will become the de facto data access layer for all applications.
  • Depending on the specific line of business and the problems (or lack thereof) associated with the business data, this data will continue to remain in the existing databases.
  • Infrastructure functionality is consolidated and implemented as a Web service to allow additional consumers to leverage the same rules and components. An important benefit is in the area of security, specifically authentication and access control.
  • Scalability and availability of various applications can be handled in a streamlined manner by using Web services. Implementing strict service contracts with specific levels of service decouples the service consumers from actual service implementations.
Benefits
It is important to analyze the actual benefit realized from the migration to Web services that help realize an EDD. This analysis will help in identification of the factors that may be used for the calculation of ROI. The various factors associated with the technical and business viewpoints are:
  • Cost reduction: In the existing setup, individual lines of business manage various aspects, including infrastructure and common data. With the centralization of common functionality and data and the elimination of multiple redundant data sources and channels of update, a significant portion of this cost may be eliminated. There may be higher upfront costs involved in implementing the Web services, but the long-term costs related to recurring yearly expenses should be lower, at least as far as the common data, processes, and functionality are concerned.
  • Flexible business applications: Rollout of the Web services with a robust service contract and SLA will allow new applications to be built faster and cheaper. Integration across lines of business will be significantly easier due to the common data being shared and accessed in a standard fashion.
  • Transparency for LOBs: In the existing model, applications had to be designed to handle issues with respect to heterogeneous systems, data redundancy, and data synchronization. The implementation of Web services will completely insulate LOB applications from redundancies in data storage and issues with data synchronization.
  • Patterns: As discussed earlier, the dependency on proprietary techniques and frameworks used for component development in various lines of business may be eliminated by implementing Web services. This will create common patterns for accessing commonly used data and functionality.
Conclusion
A Web services-based EDD solution has tremendous potential to solve the decision-making problem by enabling information aggregation from multiple disparate systems spread across the enterprise. This approach is a low cost methodology owing to the fact that existing legacy investments are leveraged. The architecture described above can be considered to be a reference architecture for all enterprise-level dashboard applications. This architecture enables a true flexible aggregation of information from the internal systems of the organization using Web services, and offers a single point of contact for decision-making information. Further, this enables existing legacy applications to take part in the overall business architecture. In future work, we will be addressing implementation concerns associated with building shared data services, including performance analysis and migration strategies.

References

  • The role of EII in SOA, Beth Gold-Bernstein, ebizQ white paper, June 2004
  • How Do You SOA Enable Your Data Assets? Jim Green, DM Direct Newsletter, October 15, 2004
  • 12 Steps to Implementing a Service-Oriented Architecture, David S. Linthicum, White paper - Grand Central Communications, October 2004
  • Data Services for Next-Generation SOAs, Christopher Keene, Web Services Journal, December 2004
  • Architecting Data Assets, Jeff Schulman, Gartner Research, August 2004

More Stories By Sriram Anand

Dr. Sriram Anand is a principal researcher at Infosys Technologies, Bangalore. Prior to joining Infosys he worked in IT consulting as well as product engineering in the US for over 12 years. His interests include enterprise architecture, service-oriented architecture, and legacy integration and software engineering methodologies. Dr. Anand is experienced in designing enterprise architectural strategy for leading U.S. companies in the financial services, retail, and pharmaceutical domains. He holds a Bachelor?s degree from IIT-Madras with a PhD from SUNY-Buffalo, USA.

More Stories By Dr. Jai Ganesh

Dr. Jai Ganesh is a Research Associate with the technology research division of Infosys Technologies Limited. He obtained his PhD in information systems from the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) in 2003 and holds an MBA degree in corporate strategy and marketing. His research focuses on Web services, IT strategy and adaptive enterprises.

His research has been published in journals such as Information and Management, Journal of Global Information Management, International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, etc. and conferences such as AMCIS, ICWS, ICEC, ICEB etc. He serves as a reviewer for a number of peer-reviewed journals and conferences, and has consulted for many software firms.

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