Practical Web services rule the real world

Imagine globally, integrate locally.

Doug Ring, vice president of eBusiness technology at Atlanta-based Geac Enterprise Solutions, sees a future for global Web services where mobile devices link to a variety of applications as part of as-yet-unimagined business models.

But that's in the future.

Right now, as he talks to the customers for his company's ERP financial and human resources products, the focus in a conservative economic climate is on nitty-gritty business chores.

As he goes to customer sites in a Web services education capacity, Ring is not currently focused out how executive might someday trade Chinese rice futures using interactive Microsoft wristwatches.

''We educate them on how you can close their books faster,'' he said, ''how they can get inventory in sync quicker.''

Real-world discussion of Web services concentrates on reducing latency in existing business processes by using XML technology to ''reduce the level of swivel chair integration in the process,'' Ring explained. That includes such mundane applications as using Web services for employee expense reporting.

''You could have a travel and expense application generate a general ledger entry,'' he said. ''You shouldn't have to wait for that transaction to be processed at some later point in time and batched up. That transaction should be able to be sent as a Web service directly into the mainframe application. So you end up with all your GL posting done that much quicker.''

Ring is on the bandwagon with industry colleagues who see Web services for mainframe integration as the so-called killer app. He said that is because the customers he meets with show little inclination to replace existing financial and HR systems.

''People are going to be hesitant to do huge system implementations and replace back-office financial and HR,'' he said. ''There's not a compelling need. Once they have that infrastructure in place, what they want to be able to do is expose functions as Web services. We have lots of customers running mainframe applications. By us wrapping them in Web services, they continue to derive value out of them without having to even think about replacing them.''

The more global applications of Web services may eventually create exciting new business models, Ring said, but that's ''down the pike.''

For more information on Geac Enterprise Solutions, a division of Geac Computer Corp. Ltd., Markham, Ontario, click on

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.