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The Evolution of B2B in a Web Services World
What can you do now to meet your long-term goals?

Is a comprehensive, highly flexible service-oriented architecture in your future? Only if the assortment of mission-critical Web services you're deploying now is highly manageable.

The use of Web services as a simple means of enabling two companies to do business together in an automated fashion is now common. Web services can provide a low-cost path to distributed application interoperability. Often, that's all that's required by IT organizations when short-term problems or opportunities arise. However, enterprises with more clearly articulated long-term goals are beginning to recognize the value of using Web services as the foundation for building a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Today, many IT leaders agree that an SOA is an essential approach to solving the many challenges facing them today. At an abstract level, many of these challenges could be expressed as the need for IT to contribute more to the business at a time of increasing change and globalization. In short, the mandate is to move IT from being cost-centric to being a revenue and opportunity center. SOAs enable the necessary alignment between business goals and technology by making automated business processes more valuable and dynamic - able to adjust to changing business conditions and to collaborate with trusted partners and suppliers, customers, and regulatory agencies.

Service-oriented architectures will increase the value of automated business processes by extending them beyond organizational borders as Web services. Given cost and time-to-market constraints, many organizations will choose to concentrate their efforts on services that contribute to core business functions while outsourcing the less-critical or more-obscure functions. To use a simple example, a chain of restaurants might develop its own services to control mission-critical food orders from a partner's Web services (an important part of the restaurant business). But, they may utilize an outside geographic Web service such as that provided by Microsoft's MapPoint to provide good driving directions on their Web site since geographic expertise is not likely to be a core competency in their IT organization.

How can IT ensure that the intricate mesh of Web services supporting a service-oriented architecture will work well? You cannot build a robust SOA on a foundation of unmanaged Web services. Any architecture - from mainframe to client/server to n-tier to service-oriented - requires visibility and control into the key processes and entities that constitute that environment. For service-oriented architectures this need for visibility and control occurs at two distinct levels: the infrastructure level and the message level.

For any Web service hosted within an enterprise, it is unquestionably important for the IT operations staff to have an understanding of the underlying infrastructure that supports that Web service. At the heart of every Web service is the business logic it encapsulates. That business logic is in turn supported by a wide range of hardware (routers, network cards, hard drives, etc.) and software (Web servers, application servers, databases, byte-code virtual machines, etc.) that must all function properly for the Web service to work. Thus, in order to identify the underlying cause of Web service disruptions (perform true root-cause analysis) as well as to measure and control how infrastructure hardware and software affect the Web service, traditional enterprise management of the underlying infrastructure continues to be an absolute necessity.

But, because Web services are primarily about an entirely new technology layer and the business messages that are exchanged at that layer rather than underlying infrastructure and business logic per se, new types of Web services management solutions must also be made available. This new generation of Web services-specific management software must function at a logical level above traditional IT infrastructure management, and yet must still be deeply integrated with existing infrastructure management so that both levels of management can correlate and share information about their corresponding responsibilities in the SOA.

Integration between these two distinct levels of SOA management, infrastructure and Web services, will make it easier for a company to build a reliable and scalable SOA. In my opinion, CA has been very sensitive to this. We designed our new Web services management solution, Unicenter WSDM (Web Services Distributed Management), with the SOA in mind. While it can be deployed in a standalone fashion suitable for more narrowly focused Web service deployments, it can also be deployed with our enterprise infrastructure management solutions, providing integrated support for both levels of the SOA. Other leading management and security vendors are likely to follow suit with similar approaches.

In the meantime, the best approach to developing automated business processes that span multiple domains continues to be a policy that emphasizes incremental deployment of secure and manageable Web services to address short-term tactical issues while staying fixed on the long-term goal of a comprehensive SOA. Web service deployments that lack manageability are unlikely to address any goals.

About Paul Lipton
Paul Lipton is VP of Industry Standards and Open Source at CA Technologies. He coordinates CA Technologies’ strategy and participation in those areas while also functioning as part of CA Labs. He is co-chair of the OASIS TOSCA Technical Committee, and also serves on the Board of Directors of the open source Eclipse Foundation, as well as both the Object Management Group and the Distributed Management Task Force in addition to other significant technical and leadership roles in many leading industry organizations such as the OASIS, W3C and INCITS.

Lipton is also an approved US delegate to the international standards organization ISO, as a member of the subcommittee focused on international cloud standards. He is a founding member of the CA Council for Technical Excellence where he leads a team focused on emerging technologies, a Java Champion, and Microsoft MVP.

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