Using Web services for greater enterprise visibility
The problem with many technology implementations is that they take so much time and effort to get right. You buy the software, but then you have to get it to work with other technology systems. Very often, those links have to be customised, or integration brokers or middleware products used to make applications work together.
To avoid this costly integration, Commerce One has taken the technology solutions of a number of vendors and pre-integrated their solutions onto one standards-based platform. Since they are designed to work together, data can be more flexibly and efficiently transferred between applications. According to Commerce One, this approach means that companies can save up to 50% on the initial costs of development and management of applications, plus a further 60% in ongoing maintenance and support.
Commerce One refers to this new type of business process management platform as composite process management. The benefits of using the platform are that applications co-exist with and complement existing technology - without the need to rip out and replace old systems. Whilst this sounds very much like existing enterprise integration applications, the approach that Commerce One has taken is based on Web services - the existing technology is left intact, and business process 'accelerators' are designed as applications that interface with the underlying technology.
Commerce One is not the only company going down this route. PeopleSoft is also talking the composite applications story, and SAP refers to its resource management application as a composite application. According to PeopleSoft, all the applications that it is developing for the real-time enterprise are composite applications.
Composite applications take a business process-centric approach. Workflow capabilities contained with in the applications are made to work together with Web services, which are capable of combining the content from all the applications and making that content available for all business process needs. In this way, all relevant content is brought together and made available for all applications to work from. For example, if an employee leaves an organisation, Web services will be used with a composite process stack to pull the relevant content from applications including financial management and human resources to make sure that all those employees privileges are revoked to prevent them accessing sensitive information in the future. In the past, each such application would have had to be separately integrated - costing time and money.
The benefits for organizations of this type of approach are that the implementation of one, pre-built and integrated composite application stack is faster and easier to implement than most applications. Intermediaries - in the form of middleware or consultants for doing the integration work - are no longer required, which saves time and money. By using the capabilities of workflow and Web services to combine all content across the business applications in use, business processes are streamlined and optimized.
This new application architecture still has some way to go before it becomes the de facto standard for enterprise application implementations. But some of the largest vendors are placing their bets on it. Implementing business applications for real-time visibility into business processes just got easier.
Copyright 2003. Originally published by IT-Director.com, reprinted with permission. IT-Director.com provides IT decision makers with free daily e-mails containing news analysis, member-only discussion forums, free research, technology spotlights and free on-line consultancy. To register for a free e-mail subscription, click here.
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