Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Stackify Blog, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Microservices Expo

Microservices Expo: Article

Web Services for Enterprise Application Integration

Web Services for Enterprise Application Integration

Enterprise applications have really made significant strides over the past 10 years (especially in the past 4) to improve their ability to integrate into a larger corporate scheme. There was a time when the letters SAP invoked uncertainty on the part of non-SAP consultants as to what these systems did. Back then, most integration was done primarily through the underlying data model and information on the platform was scarce, especially on the SAP Web site.

The integration with SAP that wasn't handled through customization of the data model occurred mainly through extracted documents known as IDOCs - structured documents based on internally defined structure and loosely defined codes. This made IDOCs useful for integration internally among developers within the same organization. As things progressed, SAP customers demanded a better interface for real-time integration of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) capabilities with existing manufacturing systems. Thus, Business Application Programming Interfaces (BAPI), offering an Object Request Broker (ORB) architecture against which programmers could communicate with ERP objects was born. With BAPI, it became possible to develop applications that could synchronize the data in the ERP system with other existing enterprise applications, such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

BAPIs worked well for a time, until the ERP information had to be shared with external entities, such as the supply chain. Many companies didn't like the idea of allowing their trading partners and customers to directly impact their mission-critical systems, and IDOCs offered little assistance in this area, given the lack of structural information that accompanied the documents. Since this need emerged in parallel with the development of the eXtensible Markup Language (XML), the requirement and specification were in complete synergy to become the natural solution.

With the advent of Web services - a model for developing application components designed for sharing with other applications in a loosely coupled manner-the question to be answered is, "What problem does this solve for enterprises today?" As we've seen thus far, each of the advances in technology was incorporated into the enterprise application platform based on consumer needs. Initially, the need was customization, then communication of data with other internal systems, and finally, the need for real-time access for synchronization.

Web Services in An Enterprise World
Business-to-business (B2B) and enterprise application integration (EAI) are both about the development of new or modified processes for the purposes of bettering the organization. These enhancements might lead to faster production, lower cost of development, or increased communication with customers and partners. The crux of these enhancements can be readily seen in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), ERP, Supplier Relationship Management (SRM), and Supply-Chain Management (SCM) applications.

B2B and EAI are also about providing access to data that has been typically developed in stove-pipe applications locked away from each other by artificial boundaries. These new processes require that information be provided on demand and be up-to-date with the latest changes. It's no longer acceptable to have a two-day lag on inventory information in a shop that relies on Just-In-Time manufacturing. Large manufacturers, such as General Motors, rely on completed parts assemblies arriving at the shipping dock the day they are to be assembled into a vehicle.

To answer the question posed at the end of the last section, we need to look at the Web services offering from different perspectives. The first perspective is the traditional view of Web services that many programmers are being introduced to today through tools such as BEA's WebLogic Workshop and Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET. This perspective leverages the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Web Service Definition Language (WSDL) as a means to wrap a functional interface with an XML request-and-response document. From this perspective, the functions being wrapped have well-defined method signatures and use known data typing, such as strings and integers. The XML documents encode the parameters and return values to these functions using SOAP encoding (see Figure 1).

This methodology extends the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) functionality provided by popular ORBs, such as CORBA, DCOM, and Java RMI. However, it extends the RPC capabilities to operate over more traditional, and often firewall-friendly, interfaces such as SMTP and HTTP. On the other hand, merely extending an existing methodology does little to demonstrate the role that Web services could play in an EAI or B2B solution. For this we need to look at Web services from another perspective.

In the introductory paragraphs we discussed how systems like SAP used a document metaphor for data exchange with other systems-the IDOC. The weakness in the IDOC approach was the lack of communication of the structure to systems that weren't privy to the underlying data model. This is where the real opportunity for Web services exists.

When we reviewed the traditional approach to Web services, we saw that they operate through the use of XML-based request-and-response documents. XML was chosen as the format for SOAP encoding because it was able to incorporate metadata about the data encoded as well as carry the data itself. But SOAP is also a general enveloping facility that can carry non-XML documents between applications and can use alternate encoding schemes for the data it is carrying. Therefore, it's possible to use the multitude of existing document formats as input to and output from Web services processing.

Viewed from this perspective, it would be possible to use existing spreadsheet models and IDOC-like documents as input into a server-side process, thus providing significant reuse of existing systems architectures for interoperability and integration. Moreover, the SOAP architecture provides ample support to notify the sender that the document type is understood and has been properly processed by the receiver.

You might ask, "Why go through all the trouble of implementing a new encoding scheme instead of just transforming the data into XML?" That's an excellent question, which can only be answered by pointing to a possible real-world scenario. Before XML existed, there was a multitude of data formats, such as comma-separated values, tab-delimited, and even column-specific formats. To facilitate integration with existing applications, these formats were generated by many legacy systems; systems that today are costly to pull out of production or to rewrite to support XML.

Developing a new B2B or EAI process to communicate with systems might require that the data be formatted for the time being in something other than XML. Web services enables us to take advantage of these systems as components of a much larger process without having to first rewrite them - a very powerful and often overlooked capability of Web services. Remember, the goal of Web services is to componentize our legacy systems so they can participate in newly designed processes, which means that they will take some input and provide some output that will be used in downstream steps.

Next Steps for Web Services EAI
In contrast to past supporting changes made to enterprise applications for the purposes of integration, Web services is clearly being driven by the hype surrounding XML and the support for Web services by leading companies, such as Microsoft, IBM, BEA, Oracle, and others. The widespread support for Web services by these companies - for example, Microsoft betting the company on a Web services strategy - has led vendors such as Siebel, SAP, JD Edwards, and others to develop Web services or SOAP interfaces to their products. It's still questionable how soon enterprises will adopt these interfaces for use in new application integration solutions.

Standardization will be a key contributor to this adoption, if and when it occurs. In addition to SOAP, organizations created to ensure the interoperability of Web services implementations (WS-I) and emerging standards, such as Web Service Flow Language (WSFL), will assist with tying together these components in a consistent manner. These will help increase the chances of success.

Note: while there are many contrasts between efforts, the Object Management Group (OMG) has followed a very similar history in the CORBA arena, with only a modest level of adoption. And, while there are many differences between CORBA and Web services that don't allow for prediction based on past experience - for example widespread support by Microsoft - there's certainly a large degree of consistency in the approaches that indicates that Web services will have a much steeper learning curve than most of the early XML-based standards.

More Stories By JP Morgenthal

JP Morgenthal is a veteran IT solutions executive and Distinguished Engineer with CSC. He has been delivering IT services to business leaders for the past 30 years and is a recognized thought-leader in applying emerging technology for business growth and innovation. JP's strengths center around transformation and modernization leveraging next generation platforms and technologies. He has held technical executive roles in multiple businesses including: CTO, Chief Architect and Founder/CEO. Areas of expertise for JP include strategy, architecture, application development, infrastructure and operations, cloud computing, DevOps, and integration. JP is a published author with four trade publications with his most recent being “Cloud Computing: Assessing the Risks”. JP holds both a Masters and Bachelors of Science in Computer Science from Hofstra University.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus intern...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry’s single source for the cloud. Fusion’s advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including cloud...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
There are two main reasons for infrastructure automation. First, system administrators, IT professionals and DevOps engineers need to automate as many routine tasks as possible. That’s why we build tools at Stackify to help developers automate processes like application performance management, error monitoring, and log management; automation means you have more time for mission-critical tasks. Second, automation makes the management of complex, diverse environments possible and allows rapid scal...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
This talk centers around how to automate best practices in a multi-/hybrid-cloud world based on our work with customers like GE, Discovery Communications and Fannie Mae. Today’s enterprises are reaping the benefits of cloud computing, but also discovering many risks and challenges. In the age of DevOps and the decentralization of IT, it’s easy to over-provision resources, forget that instances are running, or unintentionally expose vulnerabilities.
One of the biggest challenges with adopting a DevOps mentality is: new applications are easily adapted to cloud-native, microservice-based, or containerized architectures - they can be built for them - but old applications need complex refactoring. On the other hand, these new technologies can require relearning or adapting new, oftentimes more complex, methodologies and tools to be ready for production. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, Solutions Marketi...
It has never been a better time to be a developer! Thanks to cloud computing, deploying our applications is much easier than it used to be. How we deploy our apps continues to evolve thanks to cloud hosting, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and now Function-as-a-Service. FaaS is the concept of serverless computing via serverless architectures. Software developers can leverage this to deploy an individual "function", action, or piece of business logic. They are expected to start within milliseconds...
We all know that end users experience the internet primarily with mobile devices. From an app development perspective, we know that successfully responding to the needs of mobile customers depends on rapid DevOps – failing fast, in short, until the right solution evolves in your customers' relationship to your business. Whether you’re decomposing an SOA monolith, or developing a new application cloud natively, it’s not a question of using microservices - not doing so will be a path to eventual ...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud taking place June 6-8, 2017, at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long developm...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, I provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading the...
The purpose of this article is draw attention to key SaaS services that are commonly overlooked during contact signing that are essential to ensuring they meet the expectations and requirements of the organization and provide guidance and recommendations for process and controls necessary for achieving quality SaaS contractual agreements.
SYS-CON Events announced today that OpsGenie will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2012, OpsGenie is an alerting and on-call management solution for dev and ops teams. OpsGenie provides the tools needed to design actionable alerts, manage on-call schedules and escalations, and ensure that the right people are notified at the right time, using multiple notification methods.
The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that it actually exists. And whether you've realized it or not, cloud services are a problem for your IT department. Even if you feel like you have a solid grasp of cloud technology and the nuances of making a cloud purchase, business leaders don't share the same confidence. Nearly 80% feel that IT lacks the skills necessary to help with cloud purchases-and they're looking to cloud brokers for help instead. It's time to admit we have a cloud s...
According to a recent Gartner study, by 2020, it will be unlikelythat any enterprise will have a “no cloud” policy, and hybrid will be the most common use of the cloud. While the benefits of leveraging public cloud infrastructures are well understood, the desire to keep critical workloads and data on-premise in the private data center still remains. For enterprises, the hybrid cloud provides a best of both worlds solution. However, the leading factor that determines the preference to the hybrid ...
In this modern world of IT, you've probably got some new colleagues in your life-namely, the cloud and SaaS providers who now hold your infrastructure in their hands. These business relationships-yes, they're technology-based, but cloud and SaaS are business models-will become as important to your IT team and your company as the hardware and software you used to install. Once you've adopted SaaS, or inherited SaaS, it's on you to avoid price hikes, licensing issues and app or provider sprawl....
A completely new computing platform is on the horizon. They’re called Microservers by some, ARM Servers by others, and sometimes even ARM-based Servers. No matter what you call them, Microservers will have a huge impact on the data center and on server computing in general. Although few people are familiar with Microservers today, their impact will be felt very soon. This is a new category of computing platform that is available today and is predicted to have triple-digit growth rates for some ...
In IT, we sometimes coin terms for things before we know exactly what they are and how they’ll be used. The resulting terms may capture a common set of aspirations and goals – as “cloud” did broadly for on-demand, self-service, and flexible computing. But such a term can also lump together diverse and even competing practices, technologies, and priorities to the point where important distinctions are glossed over and lost.