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Saturday, January 29, 2005

B2B Solutions, Web Services, Interoperability

David Burdett writes,"Using Web services to connect all businesses everywhere for eCommerce or B2B is a well accepted vision, but it is taking time to get there. David in a well referenced article lists potential holdups in the implementation of B2B initiatives. Excerpts with edits and my comments added:

A chemical company with small suppliers can’t push B2B integration like Walmart’s –" Only My Way" integration.The expectations of using standards like CIDX and Web services to ease B2B integration are high, but reality is several steps away.
The general expectation is that Web services and adoption of standard business document formats based on UN/CEFACT Core Componentswill make the problem go away. With WSDL definitions for your Web services and give them to the company that you want to connect with and they can bind their solution to the WSDL and there comes connectivity and a simple solution. The issues are:
- Firstly, the company you want to connect to must also provide you with a WSDL definition for their Web services ... if they have them.
- Secondly,eCommerce connections using Web services, need to use multiple different specifications, e.g. Do you use WS Addressing or WS Context to describe the metadata about your service? Do you use WS Reliability or WS Reliable Messaging to make sure your message is delivered? How do you do message security? Do you use HTTP/S or XML Signature and WS Security. You might agree to using WS Security but which of the signature algorithms do you use for generating your signatures?

The key point is that any variability requires additional effort when building your solution. So even if you are using WSDL to define your connections, there is potentially still a lot of work to do before you can implement that connection. A small business can't afford to do this, of if they do, they will only do it for their major customers. If you are not one of their major customers then you are stuck. So the less variability the better. Ideally you probably want to get to the point where the only variability you have to support is the URL used for receiving messages and the digital certificate to use for encrypting messages and validating signatures. If everything else is standardized then you stand a much better chance of being able to add connections to new partners quickly and easily. So really, for interoperability "less is more"!
The solution:
- Firstly, some of the Web services standards need to mature - standards such as WS Addressing are still in development. Debates over competing standards such as WS Reliability and WS Reliable Messaging need to be resolved.
- We also need to develop a profile of how all the different web services standards are used together so that the amount of variability that small organizations have to handle is significantly reduced.

While groups such as WS-I are working on this,we're not there yet,but we're getting there.

We also need to factor in Barry Briggs view every business document is an artifact of a business process - but we have yet to build a product that treats them that way and more so in thisdecade of process. This would be the key for sustained excellence in B2B integrations.

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"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"