Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: AppNeta Blog, Jason Bloomberg, Elizabeth White, Gopala Krishna Behara, Sridhar Chalasani

Related Topics: Microservices Expo

Microservices Expo: Article

Knowing When to Use Web Services

Knowing When to Use Web Services

Web services are moving from the latest buzzword to a mature and accepted technology. Mainstream companies such as Eastman Chemical, Wells Fargo, and NEC have begun deploying significant Web Services-Based Integration (WSBI) projects. Avnet Computer Marketing (Avnet CM) is one of many companies also betting heavily on Web services. This month, "Web Services in the Real World" describes Avnet CM's strategic foray into WSBI (see sidebar). We'll explore their business objectives, why they chose Web services for some parts of their architecture (and not others), and the results they achieved.

Background
Avnet Computer Marketing (Avnet CM) markets enterprise technology products from the world's premier computer manufacturers and software suppliers. Customers include value-added resellers (VARs) and enterprise customers, and Avnet CM provides them with marketing support, pricing strategies, and supplier-relationship management. Avnet CM is an operating group of Avnet, Inc. (NYSE:AVT), a Phoenix, Ariz.-based Fortune 500 company. Avnet is a technology marketing and services provider, and one of the world's largest distributors of electronic components and computer products from industry leading manufacturers.

The Challenge
Avnet CM manages Avnet's Hall-Mark e-business portal that allows customers and suppliers to configure and place orders, retrieve real-time pricing and availability information for products, and view their order status.

To provide customers and suppliers with a broad range of online services, Avnet CM needed to connect the portal to various back-end systems using a variety of protocols and file formats. "Maintaining this growing number of proprietary interfaces became untenable and prevented us from being able to respond quickly to new market opportunities," said Bud Alexander, vice president of Enterprise Integrated Solutions. He wanted to build a responsive IT infrastructure that allowed him to

  • Reduce the cost of development and maintenance by consolidating and standardizing internal system interfaces, and
  • Speed time to market by maximizing interface reuse.

    The Solution
    Alexander's strategy was to wrap applications with business-oriented WSDL interfaces, creating common business services, and then to pull data from multiple applications into one "Business Service Hub." (This is one of the usage patterns identified in the first article of this series, "Patterns in Web Services Projects"; WSJ, Vol. 3, issue 5). The goal was to consolidate interfaces and reduce the number of connections among systems. The architecture was required to maximize the potential for reuse, and the services had to be accessible from anywhere using any technology.

    With this framework in place, Alexander hoped to reduce system integration maintenance by combining and reusing connections among systems. Such a model would speed integration by reusing Web service components that were already built.

    The Architecture
    Three integrated portal applications, each developed and maintained by separate teams, provide the following capabilities to Avnet's sales force, customers, and suppliers:

  • Quote to Order: Intranet application used by Avnet sales to provide customers with product quotations and to expeditiously convert them to orders
  • Channel Connection: Customer portal that lets Avnet's authenticated VARs and customers retrieve real-time order status, leads, sales, credit history, and key performance information
  • Customer management: Internal portal that allows customer service representatives to centrally view and update customers' account information

    Avnet CM implemented the Business Service Hub with a Web services-based integration platform (see Figure 1). The portal applications communicate with this integration platform via SOAP to access data from the following back-end systems:

  • The IMS mainframe processes orders and performs other sales order management functions;
  • The operational data store (ODS) consolidates customer data to create a single view of the customer. The ODS is exposed as a simple set of Web services that aggregates information from a CRM system, database, mainframe, and external data from suppliers and manufacturers (using RosettaNet and EDI).

     

    The architecture also includes trading partner gateways for processing orders. Avnet CM currently supports RosettaNet and EDI transactions, and is planning to add a SOAP gateway in the future.

    Why Web Services?
    Avnet CM used Web services between the portal and the integration platform for the following reasons:

  • Simplicity: Even nonprogrammers are able to assemble Web service-based integration solutions using the integration platform tools. According to Alexander, "Users do not need expertise in SOAP or WSDL, so I don't need to hire senior messaging experts to develop integration services. I could put anyone on my integration team, no matter what their experience level, onto Web services projects." In addition, the portal's application server can readily consume SOAP messages. This made the integration easier, faster, and cheaper.
  • Abstraction: The portal team is organizationally separate from the IT team, which owns the back-end systems. The IT team wanted to make it easy for the portal team (and others in the future) to access information without having to know about the complexities and data formats of the back-office. "The portal content team can focus on the presentation layer and need not be proficient in databases, mainframes, and CRM systems. They simply call a Web service using whatever technology they already know," says Alexander. The contract between the teams is the WSDL interface.
  • Reusability: Reuse was critical. Other teams needed to access the same capabilities. Once a connection has been made and exposed as a Web service, it's easy to connect other applications.
  • Performance and reliability: Even though Avnet CM processes a high volume of orders from their web site, they found performance to be satisfactory. Alexander adds that they have never lost a single order.

    These reasons for using Web services are consistent with why other companies said they chose Web services for integration (see "Why Web Services Work"; WSJ, Vol. 3, issue 7). Interestingly, Alexander did not use Web services for the entire project. Specifically, his team did not use Web services between the integration layer and the mainframe and CRM systems. Instead, they used adapters and native APIs. Here's why:

  • Back-end ownership: Alexander's group is responsible for the back-end systems they are integrating with. This means they had the necessary domain expertise, had direct access to these systems, and could control the technology to access these systems. Web services, on the other hand, are better at facilitating the integration between different organizations because they provide an abstraction layer, define a contract (the WSDL interface) between the groups, and let each group use whatever technology they want to access the interface.
  • Lack of SOAP support: The mainframe's SOAP support was inadequate. The CRM systems actually consisted of four separate applications, and not every one of these had native SOAP support. On the other hand, the four systems all supported APIs and adapters.
  • Performance and reliability requirements could not be satisfied with Web services: Each service consisted of a complex set of transactions on the back end that required transactional integrity, which was managed by the integration platform.
  • No reuse required: The mainframe and CRM APIs were never meant to be accessed directly. Thus, reusing the APIs directly was not a requirement. They were instead rolled up into composite applications that were exposed to the outside world as a simpler set of Web services that were meant for reuse.

    The Results
    With Web services connecting several back-end systems with their portal applications, Avnet CM realized the following benefits:

  • Reduced cost of maintaining and extending the integration architecture by consolidating the interfaces and standardizing on Web services. Avnet CM has been able to successfully retire their proprietary interfaces (custom XML, FTP, and IP sockets) in favor of Web services.
  • Faster time to market with improved IT agility. New projects are now measured in days instead of weeks. Previously, integrating the quote-to-order application with the IMS mainframe required approximately six weeks. But, because the Web service was already built, connecting the order entry e-business system took only one day.

    What's Next
    In the future, Avnet CM will extend the Web services framework to its customers and suppliers. "Web services continue to be central to our IT strategy. The investment in our Web serviced-based integration platform allows us to take advantage of our IT investments and to deliver greater value for the company," concludes Alexander.

    Conclusion
    Companies like Avnet CM prove that Web services are maturing as an accepted technology. At the same time, it's clear that Web services are not the silver bullet to solving complex integration problems, either. The trick is figuring out when to use Web services, and when not to. Based on the ROI realized by Avnet and other customers profiled in this column, Web services, and the service-oriented architectures that support them, are increasingly becoming a key component of any successful company's integration strategy.

    SIDEBAR
    Avnet CM turns to Web Services

    Customer: Avnet Computer Marketing is an operating group of Avnet, Inc. (NYSE:AVT), a Phoenix, Ariz.-based Fortune 500 company. Avnet is a technology marketing and services provider and one of the world's largest distributors of electronic components and computer products from industry leading manufacturers.

    Challenge: Consolidate and standardize application interfaces; implement a service-oriented integration architecture to speed time to market.

    Solution: Avnet's e-business portal allows customers and suppliers to configure and place orders, retrieve real-time pricing & availability information, and view their order status. Web Services-Based Integration (WSBI) feeds the portal with data from various back-end systems.

    Why Web Services: Avnet chose WSBI primarily for three reasons:

    • Simplicity
    • Reusability
    • Abstraction
    Key Business Benefits: By using WSBI, Avnet benefits from:
    • Reduced development and maintenance cost
    • IT agility
    • Faster time to market
  • More Stories By Michael Blank

    Michael Blank is a founding member of webMethods, Inc. and was its first software engineer. During his tenure, he has started and commercialized several product offerings. As director of developer marketing, he manages webMethods’ developer communities as well as the software evaluation program (http://evals.webmethods.com).

    Comments (2) View Comments

    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.


    Most Recent Comments
    Michael Blank 12/02/03 12:38:59 PM EST

    Below is the response from Avnet:

    1. Did you use Trading Networks to use webservices ? or you have exposed
    webservices to the partner directly ?

    The external facing web services are exposed to to our partners via a UDDI server which allow for anonymous browsing of services. We do not use Trading Networks to manage Avnet's web services environment.

    2. Do you suggest me to use WebServices or Trading Networks for the batch
    customer processing coming in single XML document ? Please let me know what
    your views on this.

    Trading Networks natively will handle XML documents via it's 'receive' service. Once it is received the document can then be processed and routed via the routing rules that are associated with the document. In the case of batch processing you could route the request to a service that would break it apart to be processed as individual transactions. Web Services have a role of transporting the document and Trading Networks have a role of managing the documents once they are received or submitted.

    naveen kenche 11/20/03 03:14:47 PM EST

    Hi!, I understood the way you have used webservices from the external clients. My questions are as follows.
    1. Did you use Trading Networks to use webservices ? or you have exposed webservices to the partner directly ?
    2. Do you suggest me to use WebServices or Trading Networks for the batch customer processing coming in single XML document ? Please let me know what your views on this.
    Thanks and Regards
    Naveen

    @MicroservicesExpo Stories
    By now, every company in the world is on the lookout for the digital disruption that will threaten their existence. In study after study, executives believe that technology has either already disrupted their industry, is in the process of disrupting it or will disrupt it in the near future. As a result, every organization is taking steps to prepare for or mitigate unforeseen disruptions. Yet in almost every industry, the disruption trend continues unabated.
    DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...
    Lots of cloud technology predictions and analysis are still dealing with future spending and planning, but there are plenty of real-world cloud use cases and implementations happening now. One approach, taken by stalwart GE, is to use SaaS applications for non-differentiated uses. For them, that means moving functions like HR, finance, taxes and scheduling to SaaS, while spending their software development time and resources on the core apps that make GE better, such as inventory, planning and s...
    As Enterprise business moves from Monoliths to Microservices, adoption and successful implementations of Microservices become more evident. The goal of Microservices is to improve software delivery speed and increase system safety as scale increases. Documenting hurdles and problems for the use of Microservices will help consultants, architects and specialists to avoid repeating the same mistakes and learn how and when to use (or not use) Microservices at the enterprise level. The circumstance w...
    Everyone wants to use containers, but monitoring containers is hard. New ephemeral architecture introduces new challenges in how monitoring tools need to monitor and visualize containers, so your team can make sense of everything. In his session at @DevOpsSummit, David Gildeh, co-founder and CEO of Outlyer, will go through the challenges and show there is light at the end of the tunnel if you use the right tools and understand what you need to be monitoring to successfully use containers in your...
    What if you could build a web application that could support true web-scale traffic without having to ever provision or manage a single server? Sounds magical, and it is! In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Munns, Senior Developer Advocate for Serverless Applications at Amazon Web Services, will show how to build a serverless website that scales automatically using services like AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, and Amazon S3. We will review several frameworks that can help you build serverle...
    The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), which enables organizations to seamlessly run in a hybrid cloud model (public + private cloud), is here to stay. IDC estimates that the software-defined networking market will be valued at $3.7 billion by 2016. Security is a key component and benefit of the SDDC, and offers an opportunity to build security 'from the ground up' and weave it into the environment from day one. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Reuven Harrison, CTO and Co-Founder of Tufin, ...
    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...
    Building custom add-ons does not need to be limited to the ideas you see on a marketplace. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sukhbir Dhillon, CEO and founder of Addteq, will go over some adventures they faced in developing integrations using Atlassian SDK and other technologies/platforms and how it has enabled development teams to experiment with newer paradigms like Serverless and newer features of Atlassian SDKs. In this presentation, you will be taken on a journey of Add-On and Integration ...
    Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership abi...
    The essence of cloud computing is that all consumable IT resources are delivered as services. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Yung Chou, Technology Evangelist at Microsoft, demonstrated the concepts and implementations of two important cloud computing deliveries: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). He discussed from business and technical viewpoints what exactly they are, why we care, how they are different and in what ways, and the strategies for IT to transi...
    Without a clear strategy for cost control and an architecture designed with cloud services in mind, costs and operational performance can quickly get out of control. To avoid multiple architectural redesigns requires extensive thought and planning. Boundary (now part of BMC) launched a new public-facing multi-tenant high resolution monitoring service on Amazon AWS two years ago, facing challenges and learning best practices in the early days of the new service.
    All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the work...
    DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
    As software becomes more and more complex, we, as software developers, have been splitting up our code into smaller and smaller components. This is also true for the environment in which we run our code: going from bare metal, to VMs to the modern-day Cloud Native world of containers, schedulers and micro services. While we have figured out how to run containerized applications in the cloud using schedulers, we've yet to come up with a good solution to bridge the gap between getting your contain...
    As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningf...
    DevOps has often been described in terms of CAMS: Culture, Automation, Measuring, Sharing. While we’ve seen a lot of focus on the “A” and even on the “M”, there are very few examples of why the “C" is equally important in the DevOps equation. In her session at @DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, of F5 Networks, explored HTTP/1 and HTTP/2 along with Microservices to illustrate why a collaborative culture between Dev, Ops, and the Network is critical to ensuring success.
    With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
    The IT industry is undergoing a significant evolution to keep up with cloud application demand. We see this happening as a mindset shift, from traditional IT teams to more well-rounded, cloud-focused job roles. The IT industry has become so cloud-minded that Gartner predicts that by 2020, this cloud shift will impact more than $1 trillion of global IT spending. This shift, however, has left some IT professionals feeling a little anxious about what lies ahead. The good news is that cloud computin...
    An overall theme of Cloud computing and the specific practices within it is fundamentally one of automation. The core value of technology is to continually automate low level procedures to free up people to work on more value add activities, ultimately leading to the utopian goal of full Autonomic Computing. For example a great way to define your plan for DevOps tool chain adoption is through this lens. In this TechTarget article they outline a simple maturity model for planning this.