Merrill Lynch charges into Web services

By the end of the year, financial management company Merrill Lynch intends to set up a Web services system designed to handle the...

By the end of the year, financial management company Merrill Lynch intends to set up a Web services system designed to handle the internal transactions needed to produce a stock quote.

Anthony Skipper, vice-president of architecture/Web services at Merrill Lynch, said that although Web services can make data more accessible, they are not necessarily an easy technology to adopt. "The two biggest issues we have are security and performance," he said.

Merrill Lynch chose a new product from Chutney to help on both fronts, he said and demonstrated the basics of the new system at the Networld+Interop conference.

Skipper said Web services such as Web Services Description Language (WSDL) require lots of XML script to function, sometimes creating objects six times as large as the data they describe. Beyond that, he noted that Web services can create convoluted application paths, which slow performance and can be CPU-intensive.

Merrill Lynch plans to use the Chutney product to reduce those application path links and provide the Web services equivalent of a Dynamic Link Library. A storage engine will sit next to Merrill Lynch's application server cluster and help bypass the nonlinear operations, Web service processing and I/O tasks, and network transmissions normally associated with SOAP messaging.

Having a central Web services broker that calls and collects all other SOAP messages, Skipper said, prevents developers from accidentally skewing application paths.

"You do run into these situations where you've got developers who are clueless," Skipper said. "And you have to protect against that."

On the security side, Skipper intends to use Merrill Lynch's existing single sign-on software from Netegrity in conjunction with the Chutney storage engine.

He said that firm project dates have yet to be established and didn't reveal the project cost. But he promised, "This is something we've got to get done in the next six months."

The Chutney link library retails for $5,000 (£3,432) per CPU with a 20% annual maintenance fee. The storage unit costs $100,000 (£6,865) or $150,000 (£102,972) for those who want fail-over capabilities installed in it.

Skipper said the lesson he is learned in putting together the project is that Web services are not the quick and easy fix some vendors make them out to be.

"The instant you've got to scale really high, you've got to worry about the performance of your systems and you've got to get something to help keep your costs down," he said. "A big Web services deployment could create massive server overhead if you're not careful."

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