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Data Junction head: “Web services need standard data-in/data-out API”

[JUNE 20, 2002] - Web services technology does not eliminate the need for integration in general and APIs in particular, but it does make everything a little simpler, contends Michael Hoskins, president of Austin, Texas-based Data Junction Corp.

"Every application used to have private APIs and languages that took ages to learn and could change every release; they were inside the firewall and weren't documented very well," Hoskins explained. "The promise of Web services is that APIs will always be described in XML and will always be available at a URL." Data Junction, an integration technology builder, recently worked with Salesforce.com engineers to make that company's entire CRM application available to customers as a Web service. "That work with Salesforce.com opened our eyes to what the world might look like in the next 10 years," Hoskins said. In the short term, Data Junction is working on a SOAP adapter it hopes can deliver on the plug-and-play promise of Web services.

At first, said Hoskins, "We found [the] SalesForce [project] a bit of a headache because they have their API. If the next 10 companies came to us and wrote APIs, we'd have to write 10 more adapters to those APIs," he noted. "[So we thought] 'Why don't we try to offer something for people who are doing this basic kind of data-in/data-out Web service?'" In his view, Web services can pump data in and out of applications, so a standard API is needed to deliver that technology out of the box. "We engineered a general purpose SOAP adapter and wrote the other end of that -- the API definition -- which is why this is an SDK. We [then] published the WSDL for that particular SOAP service," Hoskins explained.

It may be a bold step, but he believes it addresses the need for a quick and a scalable product for delivering Web services. "We're saying to the world that if you author a data-oriented Web service following our SDK, then out of the box you'll have an adapter that plugs and plays at high speed. And because that adapter wires into our engine, you get total connectivity to everything else in the world. So it's kind of [like having] pre-built connectivity to your data-oriented Web services." Hoskins is the first to concede that any estimate of the value of the API is still pure speculation. But after completing the project with Data Junction, he said 15 companies sought a similar API solution.

"There just aren't enough programmers in the world to continue writing custom adapters," he said. "This is one of the flaws in the grand scheme that Web services will allow everybody to talk to everything. They're still all APIs, and interfacing a billion things to a billion different APIs is really, really hard. The fact that they're all XML is good. It's kind of like we all have the same wire. We all agree to go on the same road, which is a necessary step forward, but it's not the last step by any means." His company's work on the SOAP adapter SDK is 70% complete, Hoskins said, and is scheduled for release before the end of this year.

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