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Associated Products

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Associated Products

The associated products are products that use or rely on Web services. There are lots of different types of associated Web services products. Many of them existed long before Web services came onto the scene, and they have been adapted or extended to work with and exploit the power of Web services. Others are new types of products that are emerging to exploit the opportunities provided by this new technology. Here are some examples of associated products:

  • XML tools

  • Application adapters for Web services

  • Message switching systems

  • Multichannel user interface systems and portals

  • Integrated development environments (IDEs)

  • Web services testing, diagnostic, and optimization tools

  • Web services applications

  • Web services business process management (BPM)

You may want to get a few XML tools to augment your design and development environment. XML and WSDL editing tools—such as Altova XMLSpy, Kodiak OmniOpera, and Tibco Extensibility—help you create and validate XML documents, schemata, style sheets, and WSDL descriptions. XML design tools, such as Swingtide QoB Assistant, help you design SOAP message formats that ensure the highest degree of interoperability.

As I’ve mentioned a few times, many EAI vendors provide adapter frameworks that you can use to create Web APIs for your legacy application systems. A Web service gives you an open, outward-facing interface that can be called by any application written in any programming language and running on any platform. But somehow that interface needs to talk to the inner workings of your corporate application systems. You still need application adapters that speak the internal language of your legacy applications. Most of the traditional EAI and B2Bi vendors, such as Mercator and webMethods, have enhanced their application adapters to support Web services.

To some degree a message switching system looks and feels similar to a Web services management extension. Message switching systems act as intermediaries along a message path. They provide extended middleware services, such as reliability, security, content-based routing, and load balancing. What makes these systems different from Web services management extensions is that they aren’t focused exclusively on Web services. Message switching systems, such as those from Actional, Kenamea, KnowNow, Sonic Software, and Talking Blocks, act as a centralized hub or message bus, providing a point of integration among multiple messaging systems, including Web services, JMS, RMI, CORBA, DCOM, and proprietary communication protocols.

A number of vendors have developed Web services products that specialize in supporting multichannel applications and portal development. For example, the Jarna Enterprise Event Management Platform is a framework for extending your Web services to a broad range of mobile devices. Similarly, WebCollage Syndicator helps you build interactive Web services that can execute in a portal. Many of the leading enterprise information portal (EIP) suppliers are adding support for Web services portlets and WSRP to their products. For example, CA is adding WSRP support to CleverPath Portal.

Quite a few companies are producing application development environments that support Web services technologies. For the most part, these tools are full-solution environments that hide the complexities of Web services technology from the developer. Most of these IDEs focus on component-based development, and a Web service is treated like any other type of component. In some cases the IDE works only with Web services. Many of these tools include user interface designers, proprietary scripting languages, embedded application servers, integrated processing engines, and application adapter frameworks. Examples of these tools are BEA WebLogic Workshop, Bowstreet Factory, and Altio AltioLive.

In addition to the basic tools that come with your Web service platform, you probably also want testing, diagnostic, and optimization tools. These tools allow you to prepare your Web services for deployment. They provide services to test individual Web services and composite services. They assist you in performance, scalability, and reliability testing. Market leaders such as Mercury Interactive and Parasoft are expanding the scope of their products to support Web services. Also, a number of startups and specialty companies, such as Altova, Empirix, Mindreef, and Optimyz provide Web services specific tools.

A number of ERP, CRM, and HR application vendors, such as Peoplesoft, SAP, and Siebel, are starting to include Web services interfaces in their application systems. Some startup application vendors are taking a slightly different approach; rather than try to provide a comprehensive application solution, they focus on supplying best-of-breed application modules that are designed from the ground up to be integratable. For example, Webify is developing a set of loosely coupled enterprise applications, implemented as Web services, for the financial services and healthcare industries.

One category of associated products is the focus of a great deal of attention and activity. As described in Chapter 5, there is strong interest in using Web services for business process management. People hope to use BPM to realize the vision of dynamic assembly of Web services.

A number of vendors are developing Web services orchestration and choreography tools. Microsoft was one of the first players in this space, with BizTalk Server. Many EAI and message broker vendors, such as IBM, Mercator, Tibco, and Versata, now have offerings in this space. A host of startup companies, including AptSoft, Carnot, and Fuego, also offer this type of product.

As with earlier BPM products, these systems give you a rules language to define a choreographed interchange of messages among a set of Web services. Also, they usually supply a runtime processor that executes your rules and ensures that the interchange runs as defined. Unfortunately, each of these products uses a proprietary rules language to define the business process coordination information. Lack of a standard rules language makes it hard to support the dynamic assembly of Web services. When the choreography standards efforts get sorted out, let’s hope that these vendors adopt open languages and protocols.

Of all the potential contenders, the BPEL4WS specification from BEA, IBM, and Microsoft seems to have achieved the widest adoption, at least for now. IBM provides a preliminary implementation of a BPEL4WS process engine called BPWS4J, which is available on alphaWorks. Meanwhile Collaxa, Momentum, Vitria, webMethods, and WebV2 all say that their products support BPEL4WS.

I generally view this product segment with caution. If you are experimenting with Web services and just trying to figure out what you can do with them, I don’t recommend that you jump into orchestration and choreography. I recommend that you wait it out until the technologies and standards mature.

On the other hand, if you have a pressing BPM project on your plate, don’t hesitate. I definitely recommend that you evaluate some of the Web services-based orchestration tools. But recognize that the rules languages are still proprietary.

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