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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

Dave Linthicum is Sr. VP at Cloud Technology Partners, and an internationally known cloud computing and SOA expert. He is a sought-after consultant, speaker, and blogger. In his career, Dave has formed or enhanced many of the ideas behind modern distributed computing including EAI, B2B Application Integration, and SOA, approaches and technologies in wide use today. In addition, he is the Editor-in-Chief of SYS-CON's Virtualization Journal.

For the last 10 years, he has focused on the technology and strategies around cloud computing, including working with several cloud computing startups. His industry experience includes tenure as CTO and CEO of several successful software and cloud computing companies, and upper-level management positions in Fortune 500 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years, and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities, including University of Virginia and Arizona State University. He keynotes at many leading technology conferences, and has several well-read columns and blogs. Linthicum has authored 10 books, including the ground-breaking "Enterprise Application Integration" and "B2B Application Integration." You can reach him at david@bluemountainlabs.com. Or follow him on Twitter. Or view his profile on LinkedIn.

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