Looksoftware Developing New Product for Publishing Web Services
October 11, 2005 Alex Woodie
Australian software developer looksoftware recently unveiled a new development tool designed to help iSeries shops expose and publish parts of their applications as Web services. The new product, which will be called soarchitect, is due to ship in about three months. It will work in tandem with other looksoftware products to enable customers to start publishing Web services and make the move to a service-oriented architecture (SOA).
Looksoftware sees SOAs gaining speed over the next five years, and cites a Gartner prediction that 80 percent of small and mid size businesses will deploy SOAs by 2010. The SOA concept is particularly relevant for the iSeries platform, where some in the industry see it prolonging the longevity of OS/400 applications and breathing new life into the platform (see “SOA: A Life-Line for the iSeries?”).
Soarchitect is the latest tool from looksoftware designed to help iSeries shops adopt SOA concepts and begin breaking up their monolithic RPG and COBOL applications into business processes that can be accessed independently using Web services. The software is designed to work with other looksoftware products, including centric, which is used for application and database integration and Web services consumption; newlook, its GUI design tool and 5250 agent; and lookserver, a new integration run-time environment unveiled this spring during a shake-up of the looksoftware product line. Collectively, looksoftware refers to these tools as its “dynamic environment.”
While centric provides application integration and the capability to consume Web services, soarchitect is being developed to enable users to create and publish Web services. The product will do this by defining the specific parameters of a Web service, and by generating the Web service interface components, which are published using a combination of Web services description language (WSDL) documents and simple object access protocol (SOAP).
An example of how looksoftware sees soarchitect working with other parts of its dynamic environment to generate Web services is when a company needs to integrate a new SQL Server-based CRM system with an existing iSeries application, and provide a single interface to the outside world. The first step is to define the inputs and the outputs between the systems, which is manifest in the creation of a “get customer details” module, which will return data like addresses, financial status, summary order details, and CRM data.
In this example, newlook is used to navigate 5250 screens and access data held in the OS/400 application; centric is called upon to access the Windows CRM system; soarchitect is used to define the “get customer details” Web service and align it with the data gathered by newlook (5250) and centric (Windows); and lookserver is used to publish the Web service (WSDL) defined by soarchitect. A resulting interface–either a smart client or a Web-based portal–is created with newlook.
Marcus Dee, managing director of the Melbourne, Australia, company, discussed the new product during the recent COMMON conference in Orlando, Florida. Dee acknowledged there’s a lot of hype surrounding SOA, but insisted there’s a payoff down the road. “When you say ‘SOA,’ it’s pretty easy to say ‘So what?'” Dee says. “Don’t just go out there and Web service-enable your applications. Do it for a justifiable reason. Don’t do it for the sake of it.”
Dee gave a real-world example of how a soarchitect beta tester has benefited from taking an SOA approach to iSeries integration. VicRoads, the statutory authority responsible for the registration of 4.3 million vehicles in the state of Victoria, Australia, used looksoftware tools to create a new interface that unites iSeries and mainframe applications as data. The new interface was required to streamline access to the servers, which are used to catalog information such as liens against vehicles and clean titles.
“The same service modules that provide programmatic access to the host applications will be reused as Web services, using soarchitect,” Dee says. “This will deliver the same streamlined business processes to the general public, by utilizing other channels such as a thin client.” As a result of the new application, VicRoads has experienced a 35 percent reduction in average call duration. The initial project was completed in four months, and did not require changes to the underlying applications, he says.
Soarchitect is still in development, with general availability expected in the December-January timeframe. The company is also working on new releases of centric and newlook, which will also debut around the same time, Dee says. These new releases are not required to ensure compatibility among the products, but will deliver new features, Dee says. For more information on soarchitect, visit www.looksoftware.com.