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Data as a Service: Article

Leveraging 'TheWebService' for Data-as-a-Service

Supporting core business processes

As www.ProgrammableWeb.com points out, there are about two services or Web APIs added every week, and that rate continues to accelerate. There seems to be several types of providers. First are those that produce an API as an afterthought, such as a SaaS provider. Next there are the larger Web makers such as Google, Amazon, and Yahoo that are moving toward APIs as a strategic direction. We also have small bit-players that expose an API to augment their visual offering, and, last, there are smaller companies created for the specific purpose of offering Web services or Web APIs on demand.

One of these small upstart companies that look to hang their hat on providing information-oriented Web services is TheWebService, a small, but rapidly growing company out of England that is quickly expanding internationally, and has already made inroads into the U.S. market. They offer several business-oriented services such as D&B lookups, address validation, mapping, data capture, cleaning and enhancing solutions using a range of well-known data sources such as Dun and Bradstreet, Tele Atlas, and CACI. Moreover, they have also created some sophisticated web services that answer specific needs in areas such as route planning and optimization. You can find a complete list here.

For instance, here's some sample code for getting DUNS data from TheWebService.com. (Click on the examples tab)

In addition to providing common business information as-a-service, they also provide a service called MyTable, which gives users of their Web services the ability to control and manage their own data. In essence, they place your information on their infrastructure to be mixed and matched with their services, or your own. I suspect many of their users will find it easier to place their information in MyTable versus services that enable it themselves. This is really more of a PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) notion, but valuable nonetheless.

According to TheWebService.com, they have over 7,000 customers around the world, including many Fortune 500 businesses such as Citibank, Heinz, Xerox and Honeywell, and they provide many millions of transactions daily through their infrastructure, inclusive of a redundant data center. They are self-funded with a very efficient organization.

The challenge for companies such as TheWebService is to provide a key differentiator, given the fact that there are so many other companies looking to do similar things, in many cases providing the same data. The use of MyTable is unique, and then it quickly comes down to price and quality of service. The company that can provide good services at a good price will find they quickly rise to the top.

However, the larger direction for these types of API/service providers is the ability to offer unique and higher value services/information, supporting core business processes. For instance, the ability to provide demand planning for manufacturing, taking into account other dynamic variables...very complex and high value services.

What's key here is that they have the infrastructure in place, and thus the addition of new services is just a matter of deployment and/or finding the information or service providers that may be abstracted within the network. Key to this could be TheWebService's capacity to provide customers with the ability to self-provision their data, in essence, becoming a data provider on that platform without the assistance of the development staff at TheWebService. That might be just the innovation required to leverage the platform in ways the owners of TheWebService have yet to think about, providing more valuable information over time, and addressing specific needs of business.

More Stories By David Linthicum

David Linthicum is the Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte Consulting, and was just named the #1 cloud influencer via a recent major report by Apollo Research. He is a cloud computing thought leader, executive, consultant, author, and speaker. He has been a CTO five times for both public and private companies, and a CEO two times in the last 25 years.

Few individuals are true giants of cloud computing, but David's achievements, reputation, and stellar leadership has earned him a lofty position within the industry. It's not just that he is a top thought leader in the cloud computing universe, but he is often the visionary that the wider media invites to offer its readers, listeners and viewers a peek inside the technology that is reshaping businesses every day.

With more than 13 books on computing, more than 5,000 published articles, more than 500 conference presentations and numerous appearances on radio and TV programs, he has spent the last 20 years leading, showing, and teaching businesses how to use resources more productively and innovate constantly. He has expanded the vision of both startups and established corporations as to what is possible and achievable.

David is a Gigaom research analyst and writes prolifically for InfoWorld as a cloud computing blogger. He also is a contributor to “IEEE Cloud Computing,” Tech Target’s SearchCloud and SearchAWS, as well as is quoted in major business publications including Forbes, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, and the LA Times. David has appeared on NPR several times as a computing industry commentator, and does a weekly podcast on cloud computing.

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