In-Depth

Alcan brokers transactions across multiple systems

HONORABLE MENTION: Middleware and Application Integration

Sometimes tools and technology combine to make things easier for a change. That may be one of the "take-aways" from a review of an innovative integration project pursued by Cleveland-based Alcan Inc., a major player in the aluminum and metals industry arenas.

Talk to Wilton ("Bo") Foster and he will tell you that he and his Alcan team were able to craft business processes across multiple systems in a way unimaginable not too long ago. Foster and crew worked quickly to launch a program employing what he describes as a method of "architected RAD" (rapid application development).

"Our object was to put a ring of Web services around a very diverse portfolio of systems, and then create self-service applications for our employees, customers and suppliers," explained Foster, director of global applications and e-commerce at Alcan.

Of special interest: a logistics project within the larger program now provides a window into various Alcan manufacturing systems, while handling voucher, bill and load commitment details for Alcan trading powers.

To get there, Alcan used the iWay Web Service Engine and iWay AIC for BizTalk software to create needed adapters, and also used Microsoft's BizTalk server, Commerce Server 2002 and SQL Server 2000 to help them link to the Web environment.

"We didn't build things like this in the past," said Foster. "I describe this as composite transactions with a portal at the top."

Foster positions this approach as Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), perhaps with a twist. As he explains it, the program "takes SOA and puts some teeth in it."

One major benefit of Foster's integration approach is a new lease on life for legacy manufacturing systems. By giving them a Web interface, they are renewed. Moreover, major investments in legacy platforms can now be put off.

"Now," noted Foster, "both outside partners and inside employees can interact with the legacy portfolio in a modern way -- they see it on the Web."

APPLICATION PROFILE

Project: Enterprise Integration Purpose: Develop a low-cost integration strategy to streamline multiple e-business objectives, eliminate waste and position the company for the future.

Benefits: State-of-the-art self-service applications for employees, customers and vendors; higher productivity; improved accessibility; and cross-application integration.

Platforms: Microsoft SQL Server 2000 TOOLS iWay Software Web Service Engine, iWay AIC for BizTalk, Microsoft BizTalk Server, Microsoft Commerce Server 2002

DEVELOPMENT TEAM
Wilton Foster, Dean Hooper, Robert McConnell, Jennifer Duda, Karin Kelley, Jason Bartholomew, Amy Evans, Brian Barile, Greg Kahler, Frank Scelina, Tom Holden, Jim Hendrock

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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