Web Services And Integration

Use integration approaches that provide the right balance of simplicity, flexibility, scalability, and reliability, Doculabs advises

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

October 17, 2002

6 Min Read

Since JCA isn't tied to a specific run-time implementation, a third-party application vendor can provide one standard JCA adapter for its system that will work across all J2EE-compatible application servers and EAI products. With this approach, the JCA adapter and the run-time environment (whether that's an application server or an EAI product) combine to handle such tasks as transactional support, security, and connection management, keeping them transparent to the client-application components.

The JCA approach is less complex and more cost effective than maintaining adapters to multiple proprietary integration servers. In addition, JCA provides a standard client API for both application server and EAI vendors. Still, for companies with more sophisticated integration requirements, such as transaction management and security, JCA is more limited than EAI. As the JCA specification evolves from its current version 1.0, these adapters will start to present functionality comparable to that of today's custom EAI adapters. Over the short term, however, this standard will still play catch-up.

Many EAI vendors have announced support for JCA, allowing the use of JCA connectors in their integration servers. In addition, vendors such as Actional, iWay, and Taviz provide their own implementations of JCA connectors to apps such as ERP, CRM, and legacy systems.

With Web services, a piece of functionality or component is exposed as a self-describing service that can be discovered and consumed by other systems running in heterogeneous environments. Web services are built around standards such as Simple Object Access Protocol; Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration; Web Services Description Language; and XML. From an integration perspective, Web services provide advantages over EAI and JCA in terms of their ability to bridge both J2EE and Microsoft .Net platforms using standards-based methods. With their programming independence and standards focus, Web services offer a quick, cost-effective approach for addressing interoperability and integration problems, while leveraging existing infrastructure and reusing technology components.

As more application vendors talk about exposing the functionality of their systems as Web services, more companies are weighing the option of accessing those services rather than using EAI-or JCA-based adapters. Despite its many benefits, integration with enterprise applications via Web services doesn't match the superior performance delivered by EAI adapters using native interfaces and communication layers. Besides just providing connectors, EAI vendors offer graphical tools for data transformation and translation, a communication layer, and transaction coordination, which aren't available via most Web-services implementations.

But as more applications offer Web services and more companies start investigating them, even EAI vendors are moving toward supporting Web services. The first step is to support the various standards that comprise Web services. For example, most EAI products support XML and Soap, but fewer support WSDL and UDDI. Supporting such standards is key to allowing an EAI product to consume Web services.

In addition, many EAI vendors are beginning to replace their proprietary integration approaches with Web services and JCA adapters to support companies that are committed to a Web-services integration strategy. Among the leading EAI vendors in the market, Tibco and webMethods have made the most significant advances in support of Web services. More important, Web-services support lets EAI vendors differentiate their systems not on the number of adapters they offer, but on their support for standards and the additional value-added services they provide. One of the biggest areas of differentiation--and one of the biggest opportunities to leverage Web services--is business-process management.

Still, we see that security and transaction-management concerns around Web services are leading companies to focus first on adopting Web services behind the firewall before considering exposing their Web services externally or using them to integrate with trading partners. The experience gained by implementing Web services for internal integration will provide the impetus necessary for further work. It's not until Web-services technology evolves further and gains additional market acceptance that companies will consider using them for business-critical applications that involve integration between business partners and suppliers across the Internet.

Companies should take a close look at their integration needs and pursue the integration approach that makes the most sense. Web services are attractive, but the approach is still new and best suited for quick-hit, ad hoc systems integration. JCA provides a sound approach for companies committed to J2EE application servers and an IT environment in which major systems run on the J2EE platform. EAI still has a place at the high end of the market, especially where business-process management, transaction management, orchestration, security, and reliability are para-mount. Even as EAI vendors move away from proprietary adapters, the other advantages of their integration frameworks will remain attractive to many companies.

Doculabs LogoDavid Homan and Surya Kalavagunta are analysts and Christine Klima is a technical editor at Doculabs, a research and consulting firm. Reach them at 312-433-7793, http://www.doculabs.com, or [email protected].

Chew On ThisHere’s what to consider when deciding what integration approach is right for your company

Integration approach




Overcomes the limitations of custom point-to-point integration by providing a repeatable and scalable framework

Proprietary architecture and adapters result in platform, programming language, and vendor lock-in

Is acknowledged as an established integration approach used by many companies

Technology is expensive and complex to implement

Has a proven ability to support high transaction volumes, reliability, security, and performance demanded by business-critical applications

Adapters between integration servers aren't interoperable and must be updated when a new version of an application is released

Provides a full complement of features such as data transformation and translation, business-process management, messaging layer, and transaction coordination

Future of this approach is somewhat in doubt as some EAI vendors begin to de-emphasize proprietary adapters as a primary integration method

J2EE Connector Architecture (JCA)

Lets vendors provide a single, reusable standard resource adapter for all J2EE-compliant application servers

Language support is limited to Java and requires J2EE-compatible application servers

Is supported by many EAI vendors and packaged application vendors

Integration via JCA isn't as robust as the native proprietary adapters

Is more cost-effective than maintaining adapters to multiple proprietary integration servers

Technology is still maturing

Web services

Based on open standards supported by most major software companies

Current Web-services standards support only simple request/response functionality and lack support for complex multiple transactions

Leverages a company's existing systems, infrastructure, and development skills, and enables reuse of technology components

Web-services integration typically doesn't perform as well as native proprietary adapters

Offers cost-effective and faster solutions to integration problems than conventional application integration methods

Standards around security and transactions are still emerging, so most Web services are deployed inside the firewall

Is platform and programming-language independent

Lacks inherent notion of data transformation, business-process management, messaging, and transaction capabilities

Provides interoperability between J2EE and .Net environments and is supported by both J2EE and .Net development tools

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights