The purpose of this paper is to describe webMethods’ position on web services. webMethods defines the term “web services” to be software application modules that can be executed across the Internet and have well-defined technical input and output interfaces. The technical interfaces allow the web services to be easily incorporated into locally executing applications. Web services will enable developers to develop highly complex, sophisticated and yet compact applications with minimal coding by leveraging application modules running and executing on remote hosts across the Internet.
Web service technology is the enabler for a new class of web service providers (WSPs) to provide business services that can be located in standard service registries and directly integrated into customers’ business process flows. The benefits to both the WSPs and customers are enormous, ranging from potential labor savings, data error elimination, response time reduction, to resource utilization efficiency increases (the reason why customers go to WSPs in the first place).
A complete web service architecture can greatly reduce the cost of integrating services into customers’ business processes and therefore make the services more appealing to customers and shorten the time between when the customer signs up the service and when they start to consume the service (the point of revenue generation for the WSP).
A complete web service architecture can also have significant cost impacts on managing the activities, service levels, billings and customer care of the connections between the WSP and its customers. A well-planned web service architecture is needed to address these management issues in a robust manner and deliver lower overall system management costs to the WSP.
Web services represent real market opportunities for service providers, service consumers and infrastructure providers. webMethods believes that properly architected and implemented web services will add significant values to e-Commerce value chains and bring business integration to a whole new level. As a B2B infrastructure provider, webMethods is committed in making web services a successful business and technology paradigm, and is actively working on bringing web services from concept to reality.
B2B integration to date has focused largely on connecting existing trading partners in a private trading hubs or connecting suppliers and buyers to a public marketplace. Integrations between trading partners and trading hubs (private or public) tend to be custom built for each trading hub. For example, if a supplier participates in three different trading hubs, the supplier will most likely have to deal with three different B2B interfaces using different messaging protocols, a significant amount of extra work for the supplier. Furthermore, there is no easy way for the supplier to advertise itself to potential buyers because of the lack of a standard service registry infrastructure. The lack of standard discovery and interfacing mechanisms prevents more widely adoption of B2B integration.
webMethods believes that standardized web service architecture and the associated standard support infrastructure will greatly accelerate the adoption of B2B integration by significantly reducing the cost for service providers (suppliers) to bring their service online (in machine integratable form) and greatly increasing the visibility of available service providers to potential customers. This will be accomplished through the use of standards such as SOAP, UDDI, and WSDL. These standards not only reduce the cost of service discovery, implementation, and binding, they also make possible seamless communications among heterogeneous B2B platforms, e.g., a customer running BizTalk Server can consume services delivered by webMethods B2B Server.
Industry supported B2B integration standards will take us a major step closer to the world of plug-and-play integration of business services from our suppliers. With seamless electronic exchange of information, WSP can provide personalized web services to service consumers at highly competitive prices, and service consumers can created highly tailored services for themselves by combining different web service offerings in a cost-effective way. When web service consumers start to realize real productivity gain and cost savings by outsourcing most of their non-core business functions to WSPs, the B2B integration has reached a whole new level.
webMethods’ Corporate Web Service Initiative
webMethods is keenly aware of the implication of web services in the future. As a result, webMethods has embarked on a corporate initiative to position itself firmly for the new world of web services. webMethods is the leading B2B integration infrastructure vendor. The original goal of webMethods is help companies exposing their business functions as B2B services on the Web. As a practitioner of B2B integration, webMethods has accumulated an enormous amount of field experience in connecting business together electronically in the past several years. Consequently webMethods has built out a highly robust B2B infrastructure for managing business communications, a foundation for developing and deploying reliable and high-value web services.
webMethods’ web service initiative is composed of three major components:
webMethods is in process of launching a web service marketing program aimed to promote the use of web services to the webMethods user community and to build up a vibrant premium web service provider community for both webMethods and non-webMethods users.
In the technology front, webMethods B2B Server and Trading Networks products have proven to be a solid platform for developing, deploy, integrate, and manage B2B integration. webMethods have helped its customers realize significant cost savings and new revenue streams through B2B integration. webMethods is enhancing the product to support UDDI, WSDL and SOAP-RPC for cross-platform web service development, deployment, and management.
Based on actual B2B implementation experience, webMethods realizes that there will still be a significant amount of last-mile integration work for high-value, transaction based web services, both at customer and WSP sides even with the existence of a standardized web service discovery and integration infrastructure. webMethods is putting in place a set of automated services that are designed to assist WSPs in delivering last-mile integration knowledge to their customers. A separate infrastructure is being put in place to assist WSPs in developing their web service offerings.