RealTime IT News

Digital Harbor Docks Ontology for SOAs

A young company with roots in the U.S. defense intelligence community is taking ontology -- or the study of the relationship of agents such as Web services or XML data in a community -- to service-oriented architectures (SOA).

Unlike some software companies that focus on facilitating SOAs , Digital Harbor tries to show how Web services can be related to other information sources to deliver more value to users, according to Austin Wells, vice president of product management and marketing.

Wells said the company's PiiE platform helps transform SOAs into "intelligent" information networks for customers. Digital Harbor's value proposition is to curb integration costs even more than traditional Web services platforms, which attempt to tie disparate applications together and more efficiently route them to users.

"It's extremely valuable for people to be able to wrap services in a common interface and registry and have some framework for them to work together but those frameworks don't necessarily capture the intelligence embedded in the relationships between services," Wells told internetnews.com.

While current SOA and composite application architectures provide the mechanics to string pieces of data and functionality together, they do not grasp their meaning or dynamic relationships. The ontology layer of PiiE looks to assemble services into composite applications that help users cut out the hand-coding process and get more out of their IT dollars.

Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst with research firm ZapThink, said Digital Harbor's PiiE is one of a new breed of composite application frameworks that provide much of what companies need to take advantage of an SOA.

"In Digital Harbor's case, they offer integration, process and portal capabilities," Bloomberg told internetnews.com. "With this ontology layer, users can create composite applications that consist of correlated functionality and information from multiple applications."

In one business scenario, Wells said a simple Web service might be a loan mortgage calculation as part of a loan approval scenario. The loan amount and the term and the rate would be calculated, resulting in a monthly payment.

Other vendors will string together how the loan mortgage calculation fits with the other steps in the process and a framework for interacting with it. But what they don't do is allow a business user to see how that payment amount relates to the person who approved it in the approval step.

PiiE's ontology layer would check to see if the business user was conducting other approvals that are out of the their threshold range, or accepting too much risk with the customer's portfolio. The software would determine whether or not the customer would be likely to repay the company.

While Digital Harbor does not actually create the Web services, it may be used as a complement to platforms from SOA management providers like Amberpoint, Actional or Infravio. Meanwhile, the market for Web services software is burgeoning into a multi-billion-dollar business.