Web Services

From Vision to Reality

Von Ann Toh

Enter Web services. The ABS plans to use Web services in two areas: presenting statistics to consumers of its data, and in internal CRMCRM. On using Web services to present statistics externally, Fitzpatrick explains that currently, the ABS presents statistics - be they national accounts, unemployment figures or retail sales data - to external parties on its website and in its publications in the form of tables, or multidimensional data cubes. The data is needed by organisations for planning purposes, such as by the Australian Treasury in running economic models of the Australian economy, or by McDonald's, which would look at the age and income distribution of people in that area before opening a restaurant there. "What is currently given to these organisations is a big data cube or collection of tables that they have to run through to find the numbers they want. And they then type those numbers into their models. With Web services, however, they can hook up their spreadsheet to the particular number they are interested in, from our website. They no longer have to hunt through ABS tables for the desired numbers, nor update their figures every time a new publication is published." Demonstration services are expected in May. Alles zu CRM auf

Web services will also be used in internal customer relationship management. ABS staff currently have to call survey participants who have answered questions about activity over a period of time - say employment over a three-month period, or something that happens on the second Thursday of the month - to query why some numbers appear odd. After having received their explanation, however, another staff would sometimes call the same customer a week later to ask the same question, thereby annoying them. All due to the lack of internal integration.

Web services to the rescue. "We completed a proof of concept 12 months ago to integrate a number of surveys using Web services. This will pull data from a variety of application systems, compile it and present it in a fashion that can be shown in an integrated portal to our clerks internally, and even to our data providers when they are on our website," says Fitzpatrick.

These applications may sound simple, but the implications for ABS are enormous. "Without Web services, we wouldn't have been able to do them," says Fitzpatrick. "Web services work very well because we could hook them into different technologies easily. We found we could interact with Web services from Notes 5 and with Visual Studio.Net from Microsoft, although we will not write all our business logic in that language."

In considering other integration technologies, Fitzpatrick's team rejected COM (Component Object Model), CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) and EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans). "We had systems in Unix that we couldn't get to COM from readily, and there were several phases of CORBA that were not integrated and there wasn't one fibre that worked with all the key bits of vendor products that we used. We also looked at EJB and while it didn't have the same problems, we were sure it wouldn't go well in the Microsoft world. It also proved very complex to build, and we have a large number of applications that we were hoping to simplify," Fitzpatrick explains.

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