There are several key business benefits to Web services that are often overlooked by some financial institutions. First, Web services is not just another technology that requires a major strategic investment and an army of consultants. In fact, the reverse is true. By their nature, Web services can be deployed incrementally, project-by-project, and will provide value immediately.
Second, Web services can be used to expose business and application logic in a standardized way that makes it easy for any other Web-services technology to consume. Instead of duplicating functionality, existing business processes locked in legacy applications can be reused. For example, an order management system could be used by a variety of sales and finance applications. Of course, this assumes there is a mechanism for advertising and discovering Web services - and that's the power of the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) registry, a standards-based mechanism of registering and then finding and invoking a Web service.
At design time, developers can browse UDDI to find which services are available and develop client applications that use them. At run time, these clients can query UDDI to discover the current location of the service. UDDI provides a level of indirection and abstraction that makes Web services inherently flexible.
As Web services begin to proliferate inside the enterprise, UDDI also becomes a critical management tool. Several forward-thinking financial institutions have already created enterprise-wide UDDI registries that contain thousands of Web services.
Finally, Web services are very cost efficient. Creating Web services is a highly automated process, with many vendors providing plug-ins to popular integrated development environments (IDEs) that generate all the necessary code, provide testing tools and even interact with a UDDI registry. And license fees for Web-services servers are modest compared to complex and proprietary alternatives. In addition, the ongoing costs to maintain Web services are negligible. Forrester Research estimates that when a company is able to use Web services, it should be able to get a 90 percent reduction in the cost and time it currently takes to connect applications together.
Although it may not be widely known, Web services are proliferating inside most financial institutions already. They're being deployed by project teams to solve tactical-integration problems, and they often arrive with packaged applications, making these products more accessible to other systems and user communities, furthering Web-services adoption. Many firms and suppliers are finding that Web services provide a simple yet secure way of connecting to partners, making them more efficient and responsive.
A new class of integration technology is emerging in the financial industry, and it's based entirely on Web services. As more financial institutions like JPMorgan, CSFB and Visa International realize the clear benefits of Web services, the hype around Web services will continue to be a reality.
About the author
Ian Bruce, director of marketing, Systinet Corporation, a leading independent supplier of Web services software. He has over 20 years of experience marketing technology companies. Systinet is based in Cambridge, Mass. Ian can be reached at [email protected].