Anyway, I wanted to pick up our discussion from lunch last week to
see if there might be a way to use your ideas about Web services to help
implement these initiatives. You were pretty bullish on the whole Web
services thing, so lets continue with that for a bit. Dunston leaned back
in his chair and looked expectantly at Sedgewick, waiting for him to
Sedgewick decides to recap their previous discussion and then apply it
to these newly articulated business strategies.
Bob, you remember how I described what Web services are, right?
The definition I like best is one Ive synthesized from all the trade rags Ive
been reading. Heres my definition of Web services. Web services are
loosely coupled, self-describing services that are accessed programmati-
cally across a distributed network and exchange data [or information with
one another] using vendor, platform and language-neutral protocols. They
are software modules or applications that are designed to be run across
Intranets or the Internet using the underlying protocols that the World
Wide Web is based upon today.
Dunston leans in with interest. So, give me an example, Sedgewick.
Well, Sedgewick replies, think of when you said you wanted to see
inventory informationlets say work-in-process inventory. In order to do
that, you would need information from multiple locations from multiple
Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and multiple Enterprise
Resources Planning (ERP) systems, right?
Yes, and its a pain in the neck to do that, right? Dunston half asks
and half states.
It is and it isnt, replies Sedgewick. These days, you would typi-
cally use tools such as Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) that spe-
cialize in tying disparate systems together. There are a bunch of
products that do this today, and they vary in what they do and how they
do it. They can be expensive, and require adapters or interfaces to tie
into back-end systems and extract information in the manner in which
it is desired. It depends on the business need that drives the use of the
Sedgewick continues, Now, lets suppose you want to get inventory
information from the manufacturing execution systems and ERP systems in
three different plants in three different geographies to update an inventory
management portal. Sedgewick stands up and walks to the whiteboard,
unwrapping a Snickers bar while he uncaps a dry erase marker. He draws a
blue box to represent headquarters and three additional blue boxes to rep-
resent the international manufacturing sites. We have a portal running
here at headquarters, and we are populating the portal with real-time
inventory updates from the plants. That means we have to gather informa-
tion from the ERP system at each plant. SAP in this plant, JD Edwards for
EXECUTIVES GUIDE TO WEB SERVICES
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