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Roundtable: What can and can't Web services do?

There's still a lot of confusion as to what Web services can and can't do. We asked leading experts to briefly outline a real world use of Web services that provides business value. Here's what the experts had to say...

Our Roundtable Panel Members
Annrai O'Toole Greg O'Connor Dirk Slama Steve Benfield
Cape Clear
Sonic Software
Shinka Technologies

Welcome to this Roundtable Q&A. We posed our roundtable question to several leading authorities to gain insight from the experts in the trenches.

searchMiddleware: There's still a lot of confusion as to what Web services can and can't do. Can you briefly outline a real world use of Web services that provides business value?

Annrai O'Toole:
"Web Services open application development and integration to a wider range of developers than ever before. Thanks to its roots in XML and its adherence to widely agreed industry standards, such as SOAP and UDDI, Web Services will enable developers to use their favored environment to quickly and easily leverage the investment in existing systems and applications.

To illustrate what Web Services can and can't do, its interesting to look at Application Integration. We believe twenty percent of application integration projects, such as the delivery of market data on Wall Street will always need a specialized integration solution that offers levels of performance Web Services can't provide. However we believe that eighty per cent of integration projects can use Web Services to link applications and systems more quickly and easily than similar application integration solutions. Indeed we believe that Web Services will foster strong growth in the application integration business because where previously organizations shunned integration projects due to the cost and time involved, Web Services offers a real cost-effective alternative.

Currently among our customers we see eighty percent of projects taking place inside the firewall, with the remaining projects taking place across the Internet with trusted business partners. We expect this pattern to continue as people build confidence in Web Services. The most interesting trend among our customers is the wide diversity of projects being built with Web Services. We see Web Services being used as a universal integration layer for new and existing application development, we see it being used as a cost-effective replacement for EDI as well as pure application to application integration projects."

Greg O'Connor:
"They are not a panacea or a cure all for integration problems. No matter how you cut it, integration is still a hard expensive proposition for IT organizations. Since Web Services is still in it's infancy, finding a mature offering that will pass the reliability bar for most organizations will be difficult, that is why we build our offering on top of our proven messaging software."

Dirk Slama:
"We are currently enabling a customer who is offering a credit scoring engine to 'Web Servicify' this application. End-customers can subscribe to the new service over the Internet, without the high overhead of having to install and maintain complex software at their site. Our customer can reach a greater number of end-customers, getting revenues for subscription to and usage of his credit scoring engine."

Steve Benfield:
"An insurance company has multiple claims systems because of mergers and acquisitions. However, they'd like to be able to get claims information without coding to multiple back-end systems. A Web Service is created called getClaim. Based on the policy #, the service determines which back-end system to call. So now there's one front-end to the outside world that provides access to multiple back-end systems. This lets the developers inside the insurance company build to one interface. And guess what, it lets the insurance company's partners also code to the same interface to get claim information-all using standard Web services tools.

Anything that is currently a function accessible via EJB, CORBA, or DCOM is a candidate to be a web service."


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Bio of Annrai O'Toole [ Back to Top ]
CEO of Cape Clear
O'Toole leads the corporate strategy and plays an active role in the ongoing management of Cape Clear. Prior to joining Cape Clear, O'Toole founded and served as Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of IONA Technologies. O'Toole remains on the board of IONA and several other new technology companies.

O'Toole began his career working with many European and international standards bodies to develop standards for software interoperability. With these and other initiatives, he has helped define the direction of the computer industry. He holds an MSc in Computer Science and an Electronic Engineering degree from Trinity College, Dublin.

Bio of Greg O'Connor [ Back to Top ]
President of Sonic Software
Greg O'Connor is the president of Sonic Software. SonicMQ is the industry's first standalone messaging server available from a major software vendor based on Sun's specification for Java-based messaging, Java Message Service (JMS). In this role, O'Connor is responsible for the product's engineering strategy and delivery.

O'Connor joined Progress Software in 1992 and has led various development groups in delivering major versions of Progress products during that time. In particular, O'Connor oversaw the development, strategy, and marketing of the company's Progress WebSpeed product, an HTML-based development tool and transaction server first introduced in 1996. Additionally, O'Connor was responsible for the introduction of Progress Apptivity version 3 - a Java application server and integrated development environment for developing and deploying Web-based business applications. O'Connor holds a bachelor of science degree in computer science from Purdue University.

Bio of Dirk Slama [ Back to Top ]
CEO of Shinka Technologies
Dirk Slama spearheads the Shinka mission to transform diverse corporate IT systems into unified e-business environments. As CEO and co-founder, Dirk Slama provides strategic and operational direction for all facets of the company's business, with a focus to achieving industry leadership in the e-business integration marketplace. With a deep commitment to excellence, Dirk Slama has assembled a top-notch team, with technical experts focused on delivering quality products and professional services, and support by a skilled marketing and sales operation. An internationally recognized expert in enterprise application integration (EAI), Dirk Slama is the author of "Enterprise CORBA," a top-selling book on systems integration strategies.

Bio of Steve Benfield [ Back to Top ]
CTO of SilverStream
Steve Benfield our Chief Technology Officer. He joined SilverStream as the Director of eBusiness Strategy when the company acquired Bondi Software in December 2000. Steve has more than 15 years of experience delivering innovative Web & IT solutions. Steve helped form Bondi Software in 1998 and has served as VP of Consulting and Chief Technology Officer. His duties at Bondi included strategic management, technology direction & training, and business development. Prior to Bondi, Steve was Director of Technology for Financial Dynamics (FDI), a 225 person IT consulting organization, where he managed FDI's Sybase relationships and was head of the PowerBuilder consulting practice. While at FDI, Steve researched Java-based Internet solutions and was instrumental in FDI's Java research initiatives. During this R&D period, Steve helped form FDI's SilverStream practice which led to the formation of Bondi after FDI merged with Ciber.

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