Web Services

From Vision to Reality

Von Ann Toh

Of course, necessity bred action. The time frame for the project is 18 months, says Kang. Coding work started in August 2002, and in less than 12 weeks, the BigTrumpet portal (, was born. In October 2002, it was launched with three areas of services: Career, Money and Household.

While the time frame for the project is going to be never-ending, Kang believes that the company's vision is within reach. That's because the Singapore government, through the IDA, has thrown in tremendous support behind the project, as it views it as strategic to Singapore's infocomms industry. The project also had the benefit of high-level support from Microsoft. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer flew to Singapore for the launch of the portal on on 15 October 2002, and Kang's team also had the opportunity to work with Microsoft engineers flown in from its Redmond, Washington headquarters. In addition, at Microsoft's invitation, the team flew to Washington for skills training and project discussion. "Microsoft shared with us their direction, thinking and technology. We were given insights and skills that the marketplace would otherwise never have had the chance to gain," reveals Kang.

Income latched on to Web services last May. The BigTrumpet portal is built on a Microsoft platform running on HP Intel servers. Standards used include WSDL (via Visual Studio.Net) but precludes UDDI for now, although there are plans to use the web services discovery standard in subsequent phases of the project. Kang did not even consider going back to the traditional route of using hyperlinks for his portal. Instead Income chose a Web services framework from National Computer Systems Pte Ltd. The framework comprises a suite of common services that allows rapid deployment and development of Web services.

Using Web services, Kang expects that his portal will be built in a more cost-effective manner. "It is a question of 'deploy once, share many.' I can see internal productivity increasing in the long term, as the technology is very structured, and components can be reused, saving us development time and effort. Once we start to build our services they can be shared across the world. But in the short term, however, it is going to be a huge learning curve for my IT team. We are investing in training them in component reusability and making Web services a discipline. The building of infrastructure will take time but in the second and third year productivity will be ramped up."

With Web services, Kang says, he is confident that Income will be able to take the big leap to the next phase of providing richer solutions, something EDI or pure hyperlink technology can't do. "Many websites have so many hyperlinks, but the volumes aren't there. In contrast, Web services allows users to have a single interface and complete transactions that they would otherwise have to enter five or ten sites to do, and where they would need to relearn how each is organised. With Web services, data integrity is also assured as data is not duplicated everywhere when a change needs to be made, because Web services can grab data whatever its form." Ideally this means customers will have a better, more user-friendly experience. "The complexities are all hidden to the user - that's the beauty of it."

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