RealTime IT News

SOA as RFID Middleware

The U.S. Department of Defense has told its suppliers to start using RFID so it can track the goods it receives. But how will the DoD, which operates at least 30 different enterprise systems, make sense of all the data?

The DoD has turned to webMethods to wrap them all in a service-oriented architecture. webMethods announced it was among the vendors chosen to provide business integration technology for the DoD's RFID push.

"One requirement they had was they wanted to be able to leave all their legacy systems in place, so they weren't facing significant rip out and replace costs," said Tom Roberts, webMethods' vice president of industry solutions.

Roberts said that webMethods, a Web services infrastructure provider, will integrate all those homegrown applications by wrapping them in a service-oriented architecture.

"We'll wrapper the capabilities of these legacy systems and them bring into a more modern architecture," he said. "If you have legacy system you need to move data out of, you wrapper that functionality and publish that out as an integration service."

That capability will be married to those from other systems and published as Web services. webMethod's approach eliminates hard-coding point-to-point interfaces between applications, work that must be redone each time an application is added or changed.

Roberts said that integrating the heterogeneous systems into an SOA also would give the DoD higher levels of visibility and the ability to identify and improve its business processes.

The DoD made its RFID demand in November, saying that suppliers of all goods, with the possible exception of liquids, gravels, and sand, must put passive RFID tags on the lowest possible level of packaging, whether that be per part or item, per case, or per pallet. The mandate takes effect in January.

Roberts said the DOD already is a sophisticated user of RFID, gaining experience using the technology to track assets during operations in Kuwait in 1990 and 1991. "Now," he said, "they're pushing it into supply chain logistics."

A pilot program is planned to involving goods leaving one facility and being tracked to two other locations. Roberts could not say identify the goods or facilities. The open-ended pilot will test everything from the hardware and tags to bringing data from the tags into the DoD's legacy systems.

Technology from webMethods will also be used in the Single Point of Entry (SPOE) initiative to create a collaborative environment for developing major weapons systems. For example, webMethods is the lead integration and software provider for the SPOE's Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, which funnels information such as how much ammunition has been fired or what materials have been used up to all JSF divisions.