Q

Communicating the benefits of Web services

How can I communicate the benefits of Web services and their associated architectures to the business?
This is a three day seminar but I will give you some bullets. First off, many of the companies I encounter have IT departments that are carrying a large amount of staff simply to support the myriad of skill sets required to keep all of the systems up and running and to make changes to the systems as the business requirements change. A Services Centric Architecture (SCA) moves the customization to a common technology. Whether it's a common component that will be shared by other applications or a custom portal application, you will no longer need to make changes to core application code. This removes the need to maintain these skills on staff for development. In one case, by implementing this sort of architecture, we are reducing the number of skill sets required to support the systems from 19 to 7. To understand some of the other benefits, it is important to understand the typical implementation of the architecture. A Services Centric Architecture is typically comprised of three major layers:
  • The Application Layer - consisting of your core business application such as CRM, ERP, etc.
  • The Infrastructure Services Layer
    • Portal Services - presentation and user interface services
    • Shared Business Services - interfaces to the applications: requests for data, or business logic functionality
    • Messaging & Brokering Services - core integration services: messaging, transport, workflow, brokering, etc.
    • Shared Application Services - horizontal services and foundational components such as logging
  • Portal-Based Custom Applications Layer - customer applications that are tailored to your business needs allowing you to make the changes you need to be unique and competitive.
Let's take these one at a time and examine the business benefit of each:

The Application Layer can be kept vanilla because customized applications can be built elsewhere. This makes it easier to stay current with the vendor's upgrade cycle and makes applications easier to maintain.

The Infrastructure Services Layer increases the efficiency of your development organization through reuse of common services and a decrease in point-to-point integration. It also makes your infrastructure more powerful by exposing business logic and data across the enterprise.

Portal-Based Custom Applications Layer provides customer applications that include business logic and provides interface with Enterprise Services, Applications and Data that are built on top of common services. Over time, it is not unusual to see an reduction of time and cost of more than 50% through the reuse of common services.

This should be enough to get you started. Look at your organization, apply the architecture, and imagine the benefits. Then go tell the business. Good luck.
This was first published in April 2004

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