Companies with deep roots in extracting data from host and legacy systems for Web applications are now maneuvering to expose data from this "last mile of connectivity" as Web services.
WRQ Inc. next week will unveil support from Web services designed to combine existing business logic from a wide variety of enterprise systems, including host and legacy, without duplicating or rewriting code.
Meanwhile, Attachmate Corp. has begun a controlled release to existing customers of its smart connectors designed to make legacy data and logic available as XML-based Web services with support for SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol). Attachmate has integrated this technology to extend the reach of Microsoft Corp.'s BizTalk and BEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic servers by providing a link to information and applications on the mainframe.
"Web services in theory says, 'I'm just going to ask you to do something for me, [and] I don't care whether you have a mainframe or a PC or a monkey with an abacus,'" said analyst Phil Murphy, a director at Giga Information Group Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. "Web services will bolster the value of host computers for the foreseeable future. As of today, in theory, folks like WRQ & hold the key to these custom applications. They allow you to reuse the business logic that is there."
WRQ's Verastream product will now allow customers to turn any legacy business function into a Web service in less than an hour, said Mike New, director of integration for Seattle-based WRQ.
"We're just reusing business logic that the customer already has," New said. "We can literally drag and drop those different business functions together to create processes. You don't have to write code."
Exposing mainframe data as Web services presents unique problems because the majority of the applications do not have presentation logic separated from data logic, said Prasantha Jayakody, WRQ marketing manager. As a result, vendors like WRQ have created methods to extract data via the screen interface to preserve the business logic.
Attachmate's technology features business rules inside the smart connectors as opposed to tapping the "hub and spoke" messaging-based system of some other vendors, said Markus Nitschke, senior director of marketing for Bellevue, Wash.-based Attachmate. This allows companies to keep the ironclad access rules of the "glasshouse" in place, he said.
"In our case, we say we want the rules and the intelligence as close as possible to the source," he said. "You only transmit relevant data across the network."
So far, most of Attachmate's customers are using Web services for "trusted user" intranet type of applications, Nitschke added.
Despite the potential of Web services to boost legacy data to the forefront of an enterprise, the data still was never meant for this type of manipulation, Giga's Murphy said.
"The question is, given that the tools take a green screen interface and make it pretty so users can use it & once you add the overhead of Web services, does the whole package weigh too much to fly?" Murphy asked. "How many times can I take something that was originally destined for a dumb terminal and massage it and rework it, before the total time for the transaction doesn't work for the user anymore?"