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

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

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

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 “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

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
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.

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