Vendors Lurch Toward Web Services

The future of host integration middleware lies in the support and deployment of Web services standards.

How and when will Web services impact mainstream host integration efforts? Are CICS applications ready to be re-cast as Web services?

Many host integration vendors are now steering their EAI-focused middleware products toward Web services standards. Some support Microsoft's .NET model, others the J2EE model supported by IBM and others, and some try to support both.

Vendors admit they haven't seen actual customer requests for such architectures for accessing legacy data—yet. But there's plenty of interest, partially driven by hype, and partially driven by recognition that Web services may be an extremely cost-efficient and painless form of legacy system integration.

Web services presents "another way to wrap legacy applications," says Mike New, director of integration strategy for WRQ Inc. The challenge is to bring out the "service" aspect of Web-enabled data.

Web services standards offer a compelling means for tapping host systems. "We're seeing Web services becoming the building block for any type of Web or distributed type of application in the future," says Michael Chandler, director of product marketing for Jacada Ltd. "With the money that's been poured into legacy applications, through Y2K … these applications are going to be around for many years," he says. "A lot of the core business logic is sitting in those systems and is needed in mainstream applications."

Leading the charge is IBM Corp., which is writing much of the book on Web services. IBM's WebSphere application server platform—which incorporates Host on Demand and WebSphere Studio tools—supports the latest Web services standards, including XML, WSDL, UDDI and SOAP, built within J2EE. IBM calls these, appropriately enough, "enterprise modernization" tools.

Attachmate Corp. offers myEXTRA! Smart Connectors, tools that make legacy data and logic available as XML-based Web services, with support for SOAP over HTTP. Typical legacy systems define data in native formats specific to screen, transactional or database applications. Smart Connectors' conversions let legacy logic be shared as Web services.

WRQ's Verastream enables developers to model granular components from various back-end systems within a Web service environment, supporting standards such as SOAP, WSDL and UDDI directories.

NetManage Inc. says its next release of OnWeb will support WSDL and SOAP protocols, as well as support .NET and J2EE-based frameworks.

Jacada's Chandler says, "We've moved into the application server realm with Enterprise Java Beans support. We can deploy a service that gives you access to legacy systems with EJB. We'll soon also be supporting the basic Web services environment, with XML, SGML and basic UDDI registration."

Seagull Software's partnership with Hostbridge Technology offers access to CICS applications through a direct XML pathway rather than a 3270 datastream. The XML representation of the CICS application functions can then be utilized in the Transidiom development environment to generate callable business objects with XML, Java, COM, SOAP and MQSeries interfaces.

Clearly, vendors understand that the future to host integration middleware lies in the support and deployment of Web services standards, and hope to be ready for the coming Web services wave.

About the Author

Joseph McKendrick is an independent consultant and author, specializing in surveys, technology research, and white papers.