Developing one Web service can be relatively straightforward. Linking a few systems together may not require much work. But beyond simple point-to-point connections, you'll need to update your enterprise architecture to make sure that you have the kind of framework Web services require.

The first task is to assemble a coherent picture of your enterprise architecture as it exists today—something not all companies may have. If you want to make a major commitment to Web services, analysts and IT executives familiar with Web services say, you'll have to shift your architecture from any kind of "black box" legacy applications approach—with data and code operating in silos—to a services approach. You'll have to design your architecture to provide unique business capabilities to the people inside your company who need them most—and do it in the form of individual services that can be reassembled in different ways.

If your company isn't interested in shifting to a services approach that would offer up applications as plug-and-play components—and if you haven't already adopted application services as a "must-have" part of your company's architecture—you should probably stay away from any major installations of Web services, at least for now. "If you have had a coherent development of your IT architecture, you can use and deploy Web services in a better way than if you have a 'spaghetti' architecture," says Marco Bernardini, chief technological architect at Consorzio Operativo Gruppo MPS in Siena, Italy, a member of a large European banking conglomerate. Using technology from Avanade Inc., a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft Corp., Bernardini says his company is now moving between 5 and 10 percent of all intergroup transactions through Web services software.

For some IT shops, of course, the idea of setting up a services architecture is nothing new. Dan Demeter, CIO for recruiter Korn/Ferry International, said his company's long-time services approach helped make the process of linking his company's Futurestep service to Yahoo!'s recruiting portal a snap using Web services. But if your infrastructure hasn't already been adapted to a services paradigm, be ready for some heavy lifting. "It's not just about building a new application," says Corey Ferengul, vice president at Boston-based META Group Inc., the information technology research firm. "It's about creating a new architectural design."

Ask your top architect:

How easily can our architecture support a services approach?

Tell your application development team:

We need to determine how we'll manage Web services before we broadly deploy them.

Tell your business constituents:

We're moving toward building a more flexible architecture, which will let us more rapidly respond to your requests for new services.

This article was originally published on 04-01-2003
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