Web services: the new next best thing.

Author:Gozdan, Steven W.

IN A RELATIVELY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME, the Internet has become an invaluable part of our business and personal lives. You might not consider your business infrastructure to be Web-centric, but imagine doing business today without access to a browser.

We use the Web for a variety of reasons, including e-mail, banking, research, purchasing, sales presentations, making travel reservations and to get the latest news. The experts might not have been far off when they predicted that almost everything we do would eventually be done over the Web. Sure, our toasters may not be globally networked-but doesn't it seem like everything else is?

Why are so many applications we use today Web-based, yet none of them seem integrated? The opportunity to integrate applications of all types via the Web sounds like a great vision that will be next to impossible to realize. But some fundamental changes to support application interoperability are taking place today. Industrywide standards on data formatting and security are emerging that will provide the foundation for mortgage bankers to begin realizing this integration potential. This Web-centric application integration is referred to as Web services.

Essentially, Web services will simplify the integration between applications and systems by using a common set of data and interoperability standards. However, making Web services successful will require getting all of the industry participants to adopt a common set of standard transactions and protocols. This "open systems" approach to integration will be the next level of electronic connection for the industry.

Many organizations today use electronic methods to exchange data between internal systems or for managing data exchanges with third-party systems. However, these electronic exchanges generally are not using Web services.

When companies exchange information via electronic files, each file (and source application) has its own unique file format and delivery mechanism. Proprietary data formats and incompatible delivery requirements often make exchanging data cumbersome and expensive. The individual interfaces written to exchange data are actually each unique stand-alone applications. Web services, on the other hand, are written according to standards that simplify this interoperability challenge.

An important part of the transition toward standardization that will allow Web services to realize its potential has been occurring for some time in our industry...

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