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The Integration Challenge

Developing an SOA-Based integration solution using Web Services

Figure 6 illustrates how an ESB connects Web service-enabled endpoints in a variety of architectures, including the potential for peer to peer, two-tier, three-tier, hub-and-spoke, and other interaction patterns that can all be achieved using an architecturally neutral ESB. Instead of viewing the enterprise integration problem through a single product approach, the ESB leverages the power of the Web services abstraction to easily connect service-enabled endpoints using a variety of common integration patterns. The ESB facilitates the creation of composite Web services and of course any kind of IT architecture can be hidden behind the WSDL interface. Once services are available for new applications and enabled for existing applications, the ESB fabric provides the foundation for automating business process flows.

For example, an ESB accepts information on requests from service requesters (e.g., "retrieve all information based on John's Accounts with ABC Bank"), and returns the requested information using metadata describing what information is available from a collection of services. Reusable technical and business services can be built on top of the Web services platform and accessed using the ESB.

Today's answer to application integration problems is an SOA with Web services. An SOA maps easily and directly to a business's operational processes and supports a better division of labor between technical and business staff. Additionally, SOA uses an interface model capable of unifying existing and new systems. When Web services interfaces are available throughout a department or an enterprise, service-oriented integration projects can focus on composing Web services instead of dealing with the complexity of incompatible applications on multiple computers, programming languages, and application packages.

Whether using Java, C++, Visual Studio, CORBA, WebSphere MQ, or any other development platform or software system (such as J2EE or the .NET Framework), SOA provides the architecture and Web services provides the unifying glue. As businesses and governments continue to struggle to align IT expenditures with the bottom line to achieve strategic market objectives, software productivity gains can be elusive, especially compared to gains in hardware price and performance. With the widespread adoption and implementation of Web services, ESB products are finally in the position for enterprises to improve software productivity.

In summation, Web services provide the technical tools needed for application integration and SOA offers a strategic and systematic architectural approach to apply them. Using Web services for integration with an ESB is the best way of applying SOA to solve integration problems.

This article was adapted from the author's books, Understanding Web Services, Addison Wesley, 2002, and Understanding SOA with Web Services, written with Greg Lomow; Addison Wesley, December 2004. The two books cover all major Web services standards, service-oriented architecture, and business process management.

More Stories By Eric Newcomer

Eric Newcomer is an Integration Architect in the CTO department at at Credit Suisse. Previously he was Chief Technology Officer at IONA and has been involved with computers since 1975 and professionally since 1978, primarily in the area of online tranasction processing. He was also involved in Web services from the beginning, contributing to several specifications and related industry initiatives. Currently he is Co-Chair of the Enterprise Expert Group at OSGi Alliance.

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