Nordstrom.com to Serve Up Web Services

Nordstrom.com LLC on Tuesday will lend more enterprise support for Web services as it announces plans to expand its use of the nascent technology to help bridge the gulf between the systems running the online retailer's site and those at majority owner No

Nordstrom.com LLC on Tuesday will lend more enterprise support for Web services as it announces plans to expand its use of the nascent technology to help bridge the gulf between the systems running the online retailers site and those at majority owner Nordstrom Inc. and other business partners.

Nordstrom.com will detail its Web services strategy as part of a product launch from integration vendor Iona Technologies plc, whose Web services toolkit and application server serve as the underpinnings of Nordstrom.coms projects.

Nordstrom.com in October began testing a Web service that allows customers to redeem gift cards purchased at Nordstrom stores on the site. The service connects the site, which is hosted in Seattle and runs Microsoft Corp.s Internet Information Services Web server, with a legacy mainframe system at Nordstroms banking subsidiary in Denver that tracks the value of gift cards, said Paul Onnen, chief technology officer at Nordstrom.com, in Seattle. Nordstrom.com plans to launch the Web service this month.

At the same time, Iona, of Dublin, Ireland, will announce its Orbix E2A e-Business Platform during the product launch in San Francisco. Orbix E2A will include an expanded Web services platform and a repackaged application server platform.

Nordstrom.com used Microsofts SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) toolkit to expose queries from the Web site that then feed into Ionas B2B Integrator. B2B Integrator acts as the middleware and supports Web services standards such as SOAP and WSDL (Web Services Description Language). Nordstrom.com also used Ionas iPortal Application Server to build a Java-based connection into the mainframe. That also is exposed as a Web service using Ionas XMLBus Web services toolkit.

It wasnt the first time Nordstrom.com has delved into Web services. In the spring it used Iona products to integrate its Ecometry Corp. ERP (enterprise resource planning) system with an in-house mainframe system at Nordstrom Inc. so that the site could provide real-time inventory availability information for cosmetics and beauty products.

Nordstrom.com doesnt plan to stop with these early projects, though. Onnen views Web services as the underpinnings of the way the company will connect to disparate systems in the future.

"Rather than just building a standard one-to-one [connection], were creating a Web service [that allows] any consumers of that information to use the same service without [our] having to write any additional code," he said. "That makes my life easier in terms of the number of interfaces I have to support."

It also is opening up new possibilities in how Nordstrom.com interacts with not just Nordstrom Inc. but business partners and suppliers, Onnen said. He already foresees using Web services in the near future to conduct more real-time financial reporting on sales and to connect more closely with product groups at Nordstrom Inc. that create and manufacture private-label merchandise sold through the site.

Iona too believes Web services will be the crucial link for integration. It is planning to ship the Orbix E2A platform by mid-December to replace what is now a set of distinct products, said John Rymer, vice president of product marketing. Orbix E2A will include two components that can also be bought separately. The first component, the Orbix E2A Web Services Integration Platform, includes Ionas current XMLBus toolkit and its B2B Integrator and Enterprise Integrator software. XMLBus will include support for the creation of Web services based on CORBA, J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and Microsoft Corp.s .Net technologies. Orbix E2As second component is the Orbix Application Server Platform, which will combine the current Orbix 2000 CORBA platform and iPortal Application Server with XMLBus so that the applications server natively supports Web services standards.

Pricing for Orbix E2A starts at $500 for a development license and $2,500 for a deployment license.