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Monday, March 26, 2007

World's Collide

Enterprise resource planning and service-oriented architecture are coming together. Three of the major software vendors of ERP software are moving their own platforms to ones that support Web services.

Oracle Corp. is rolling out its Fusion platform, which updates the PeopleSoft HR software with Web services interfaces. Already, its Fusion Middleware allows users to build their own composites, or applications that reuse already-existing functionality in other programs, said Wayne Bobby, vice president for solutions for finance and administration at Oracle Federal.

Likewise, SAP AG, based in Waldorf, Germany, has migrated its MySAP ERP software to a new Web services-based platform called Netweaver.

It is now exposing all the core functionality as Web services. So far, more than 1,500 functions are available. “We are going to expose every single element of our solution as a Web service,” said David Ditzel, director of public services technology solutions for the company.

In a similar move, CGI Inc. of Montreal has migrated its federal ERP software, called Momentum, to a Java 2 Enterprise Edition-based platform, allowing developers to easily hook their own J2EE applications into CGI’s software, said Heidi Green, head of CGI's state and local ERP practice, based in Fairfax, Va.

ERP systems traditionally are known as large, monolithic applications that tend to be difficult to install, maintain and upgrade. SOA promises to make software more responsive, namely by making it easy to reconfigure to meet changing needs.

In many ways, the federal government has tried to simplify ERP deployment by breaking the job into smaller chunks. For instance, when the Social Security Administration wrote the business case for a new core financial-management system in 2001, it broke fiscal duties into discrete functionalities, following Clinger-Cohen Act tenets to mitigate risk, said Tom Bianco, who manages the Social Security Online Accounting and Reporting System.

SSA’s system uses components of the Oracle Federal Financials package, including the general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable and purchasing modules.

With Web services-based interfaces, the modular approach could now become more fine-grained, advocates said.

As the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards said last summer, the SOA Reference Model is “a paradigm for organizing and utilizing distributed capabilities that may be under the control of different ownership domains.”

By reusing capabilities, theorists say, organizations could make better use of available resources or meet changing needs more quickly.

- Jacob Jackson, WashingtonTechnology.com

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