DOD EMall looks to Web services

The Defense Logistics Agency is considering Web services on its Web portal for Defense Department procurement, an agency official said this week.

Donald O'Brien, program manager for the DOD EMall portal, spoke at a panel discussion about Web services during this week's E-Gov 2003 conference in Washington.

The phrase Web services refers to a set of software specifications, including Extensible Markup Language, that let computer applications talk to each other.

DLA officials want the EMall to be the Defense customer's first choice for purchasing supplies, O'Brien said. Unlike most other shopping portals, which have a single seller, 'we think of ourselves as like the phone company,' bringing customers and sellers together, O'Brien said.

The agency wants to move EMall to a service-oriented architecture, O'Brien said. DLA officials hope for a cascade effect as suppliers and manufacturers add Web services to their catalogs.

Issues that will affect how fast DLA moves to Web services include organizational resistance, security, and the need to build and extend supplier relationships, O'Brien said.

'I'm really excited about the potential for applying Web services to my project,' he said.

Panelist Tamer Ali, product management director for VCampus Corp. of Reston, Va., said computerized training systems could benefit from Web services because they often must interact with other agency systems, such as financial reporting and human resources.

When getting involved in Web services, agency officials should start simple and find a process where Web services can improve the experience, Ali said. They shouldn't feel pressured to use Web services just because of the hype.

'Web services is the best technology we have today,' said Brian R. Carroll, senior director of architecture for Merant Inc. of Hillsboro, Ore. 'Standards are still evolving, but a solid core exists.'

Merant and several other companies support the creation of a working group to manage changes in Web services that interact with each other, Carroll said. The companies will submit their proposal to the Organization for Structured Information Standards of Billerica, Mass.

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