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J2EE Journal: Article

A Conversation with IBM's Kerrie Holley

A Conversation with IBM's Kerrie Holley

As chief architect of e-Business Integration Solutions for IBM Global Services, Kerrie Holley turns business requirements into cutting-edge network solutions. Holley, an IBM Distinguished Engineer, was honored for his contributions to IBM when he received the Chairman's Award at the 2003 Black Engineer of the Year Awards ceremonies.

In an exclusive interview with WebSphere Developer's Journal editor-in-chief Jack Martin, Holley discusses the origins and future of e-business on demand, and the importance of a service-oriented architecture in today's enterprise.

WSDJ: When you first started at IBM what did you go there to do?
Holley: I have always been part of IBM's services organization, so when I first joined IBM in 1986, I joined what was then an independent business unit, which was a predecessor - a very early predecessor - to what is now the services business in IBM.

WSDJ: It sounds as if you were one of Global Services' original employees?
Holley: Exactly.

WSDJ: How did you get involved in WebSphere and Web services?
Holley: It's a natural growth. As an architect within Global Services, I tend to focus predominantly on emerging trends and emerging technologies, and clearly Web services on demand is just that, so doing work in WebSphere - doing work in the whole J2EE space - is a large part of what we do in terms of helping customers meet the vision of Web services on demand. It is a natural outgrowth from a lot of the e-business development work we were doing just a few years back.

WSDJ: What is the difference between Web services on demand and e-business on demand?
Holley: A very good question. Web services on demand - a term that we actually haven't often heard used - is a subset of e-business on demand. That is, Web services on demand would be an enabler for the full vision of e-business on demand.

WSDJ: What types of customers are interested in instituting Web services strategies?
Holley: It's actually cross-industry. I work mainly in the financial marketplace where you see a lot of credit card companies, banks, brokerage firms - and it's especially true there because they have a lot of external markets and customers, like a credit card company wants to reach member banks. Brokerage houses want to talk to other institutions and to other customers, so they have a lot of B2B scenarios, which plays nicely with Web services.

WSDJ: What are the top three B2B scenarios that you see customers using?
Holley: One is simple integration with an external supplier. That's simply the ability to use open standards in a way that allows them to talk without having point-to-point solutions, without having to have the two IT departments go through some coordinated development activity to bring a solution or product to market. So one scenario is simple integration. Another scenario is enabling a partner to have seamless access to a service that you may already have, that traditionally you provide internally, but now you want to make externally available.

Let's take a credit card company, where you know the typical problem you have. When you or I have a dispute about our credit card, we call up the credit card company and we deal with their customer service organization and in turn the customer service organizations of the credit card company and the retailer sort of talk, resolve, and get back to us. In a future scenario I would be able to go into that credit card company's back-end system through a type of Web service and extract the information I want so it would help me with the dispute process.

A third scenario is probably what I see most often in internal integration, where you have disparate computing platforms and you need to find a seamless way to make the systems talk to each other. That's an internal integration issue within the enterprise, but it's a pretty typical example of what organizations start with, especially where they have grown through mergers and acquisitions and that's been a part of their business model. They integrate the silos that have been built into the company into a more horizontal scheme.

WSDJ: I think the concept of Web services on demand is probably new to a lot of our readers. Could you explain first how they play with e-business on demand; second, exactly what Web services on demand is; and third, where you see that playing out in the marketplace early on?
Holley: I think that when we talk about Web services we must also talk about another concept that is really tightly coupled with Web services - service-oriented architectures. It is through the combination of Web services and service-oriented architecture that we really have this Web services on demand.

WSDJ: Can you explain what service-oriented architecture is?
Holley: Service-oriented architecture is where you have an architecture that is predominantly composed of services. You have a consumer of those services, you have a provider of those services, you have a way of connecting the two together - some kind of matchmaking capability between the two, and more important, this service has a predictable result when you invoke it. It contrasts with what we typically do, where we may have different types of results coming back from the traditional application programming interfaces.

Service-oriented architecture allows the design of software systems that provide services to other applications through published and discoverable interfaces where the services can be invoked over a network. When customers implement service-oriented architectures using Web services technologies we create a more powerful and flexible programming model for building software. Development and ownership costs are reduced, as well as implementation risks.

WSDJ: Back now to the original question on e-business on demand and how it all plays out.
Holley: Web services really means two things. It means Web services technologies - SOAP, UDDI, WSDL and XML, and so on. But it also means the service itself, the encapsulated business function that we want to tap and have access to and make available. When we talk about Web services we are really using it in two contexts. We are talking about it from a technology vantage point and from a service standpoint. That's why I say you also have to have the service-oriented architecture (SOA). When you put those two together, you have something very powerful - Web services on demand - because now you have the ability to do this assembly of services, this plug-and-play type of software development model, this nirvana that we all want to achieve.

What this provides for the business is, obviously, speed to market; they get flexibility because they can leverage the services and mix and match them in a way that makes sense for their business; they get technology agnostic to some degree in that they are no longer tied to a specific platform; it doesn't matter if the service is implemented on technology A or B. Obviously we have technology like WebSphere that facilitates this, but another benefit of a technology-agnostic approach is the heterogeneity that you can provide in this kind of solution so customers can pick and choose what makes sense for their business and optimize their total cost of ownership.

WSDJ: Are you saying that your Web services on demand will work with .NET?
Holley: Well, in Web services on demand definitely, the answer is yes. It is technology agnostic, so it works with - and allows customers to pick and choose - the technology that makes sense for their business

WSDJ: How does this all play with e-business on demand?
Holley: e-business on demand is a much broader initiative. e-business on demand deals with the application environment, which is a lot of what I focused our attention on just now. But e-business on demand also deals with the operating environment and its infrastructure aspects. It's about autonomic computing, so that you have all of the attributes that give you lights-out, 24x7, this self-healing, self-optimizing, and self-configuring environment that is another aspect of on demand. Another aspect of on demand is the whole ability to leverage IT as a utility. That's another aspect of on demand.

Then you have the business aspect of on demand as well, where suddenly, because I am leveraging all these technologies I can become this on-demand business that becomes more resilient, more variable, and more adaptive to market changes. Web services on demand really becomes an enabler of that overall vision, hence the two concepts are definitely linked but different. Web services on demand is a subset, an enabler - and the technology is enabling technology to make that happen.

WSDJ: It sounds like the Web services on demand play is the software side of the engine to make e-business on demand a reality.
Holley: Exactly. It helps in a couple of dimensions. It helps on the application side that we've talked about, in the context that we can move to this plug-in, assembly-type model of building solutions, but also on the infrastructure side it helps us implement some of the solutions because we are using those Web services technologies as the open standard to substantiate some solutions in that space.

WSDJ: Can you see this driving down costs?
Holley: Definitely. Obviously that is going to take place over time. What I've typically seen is that whenever you talk about driving costs down, the next question is whether you can quantify it. Can you establish what that cost is going to be? That becomes more difficult because you are driving down cost through efficiency and a lot of dimensions, but that efficiency is eaten up with other demands of the business.

WSDJ: Your early customers, how are they using that today?
Holley: Our early customers are focused on some of the attributes of responsiveness and variableness. Those are probably two of the key attributes that drive their interest in these models. When they build solutions they don't want those solutions to be legacy solutions tomorrow; they want those solutions to rapidly accommodate and adjust to the changing business landscape. I see that a lot in terms of trying to have integrated systems, speed to market, more variable costs, and a better return on investment.

WSDJ: How do the new features in WebSphere 5 help you do this?
Holley: We have improved support for Web services, and that's probably the biggest factor, so as a technology it is a basic building block and it provides the broadest Web services platform support available. This includes the ability to generate Web services using wizards, service choreography of end-to-end business processes, reliability through JMS and message-driven bean support, security using the Web services gateway, and interoperability using the Web Services Invocation Framework.

WSDJ: A lot of our readers are technologists and developers. They would be very interested, I think, in knowing what basic components they need to have present to try their own Web services on demand play.
Holley: I think you want to lead with architecture. Establishing an architecture is key because the architecture lays out the basic framework and the basic components, and enables you to select the appropriate technology. I know I mentioned the opportunity with the service-oriented architecture, but that is one part of it. Let's take it bottom up for a minute. If we look at a maturity model that organizations would evolve to as they look to reach Web services on demand, there is a lot of technology that has been out on the market for some time. Object technology is one, and it will be a basic building block here. Another basic building block is going to be component technology, which you get from things like J2EE.

We started with object technology, and then saw more advances to things like component models. With component models we are also getting things like frameworks that we provide, and some of those are open source. In both cases, those become basic building blocks for an organization looking to establish this. Then, obviously, picking the right technologies - technologies like WebSphere - that help you instantiate specific solutions. And above all, if you look at the service-oriented architecture, or even below that, you've got architectures that are organized around layers, with which there is a separation of concerns. These layers allow you to organize teams around those layers, which allows you to build parts of your solution by layer. This in turn promotes multisite development. I can have 100 people or 1,000 people in India, or 1,000 people someplace else; this provides an enterprise with variableness in their deployment of resources.

I envision organizations moving toward this maturity model by starting with objects, exploiting frameworks, moving to component development, applying software accelerators - but ultimately everything being part of a holistic approach to create the service-oriented architecture with services that in many cases can be assembled. For example, the list balance inquiry or open account service will be available to the teller application, the personal banking application, the telephony solution, the mortgage banking application, or other applications external to the enterprise. We effectively reduce the silos and achieve integration using Web services.

The realization of service-oriented architectures will allow organizations to build solutions faster to develop software faster. Of course, the fastest way to develop software is not to write any software but to assemble software with a plug-and-play model much like kids assemble structures using toy blocks. Organizational maturity to realize this state occurs by reducing the amount of human-generated code, raising the level of abstraction, using model-driven development tools like those provided with Rational software, and exploiting technologies like WebSphere. Figure 1 illustrates this adoption model as organizations realize Web services on demand.

WSDJ: Which industries are showing interest in getting involved with Web services on demand right now?
Holley: Definitely the financial and banking markets are; manufacturing is another one; and insurance - which is still in the financial market, but is an industry that we see moving quickly in this space - and automotive as well.

WSDJ: So you are pulling a Web services play and let's say there is some business logic and at the end of the day they sell the customer something to push it to commerce or whatever. Do you see what I want to try to get from you?
Holley: Web services really is the basic building block that makes this possible and ties it all together with WebSphere. If we look not only at the capabilities that we have today out of version 5, but look down the road, we have the ability to eventually make this technology have either a small or large footprint. That's the variable part: a small footprint for a one-person development shop or a larger footprint for the hundreds of developers in a complex enterprise. A second benefit is the fact that we can close this business-to-IT gap so that we can actually begin to do modeling and be able to instantiate those models with the technology that we get from the WebSphere family combined with IBM's Rational software suite. From an integration standpoint, I am getting a lot of integration with WebSphere, as well as with an open standards base that's reliable, secure - and that's another big benefit that I am getting out of that product suite.

WSDJ: If a WebSphere customer reads this interview and says, "Okay, I want to try this Web services on demand concept," what would be an easy area in which to implement Web services on demand today?
Holley: That would be a simple within-the-enterprise integration opportunity where you have a real business need to do some integration to provide some value to your customer base. That would be a significant opportunity that would give you some significant business value, but you would also be smart by starting small. The technology is proven, your risks are small, and your opportunity for success is great.

More Stories By Jacques Martin

Jack Martin, editor-in-chief of WebSphere Journal, is cofounder and CEO of Simplex Knowledge Company (publisher of Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal http://www.s-ox.com), an Internet software boutique specializing in WebSphere development. Simplex developed the first remote video transmission system designed specifically for childcare centers, which received worldwide media attention, and the world's first diagnostic quality ultrasound broadcast system. Jack is co-author of Understanding WebSphere, from Prentice Hall.

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