JP Morgan pioneers real-world web applications for end-users

With technology standards still in development, web services can seem like blue-sky technology, at least a year or so away from...

With technology standards still in development, web services can seem like blue-sky technology, at least a year or so away from being commercially viable. However, while some businesses are giving web services a wide berth, investment bank JP Morgan has been working with the technology for the past two years.

A new generation of development tools from companies such as BEA, IBM and Microsoft have simplified the process of building web services, but real-world applications have been pioneered by JP Morgan in order to provide end-users with access to back-end systems.

Robert Greig, technical lead for investment bank technology (equities research) at JP Morgan, needed a system to provide financial data to research analysts at the bank to run calculations.

The analysts used Excel running on a mixed NT4.0 and Windows XP desktop environment. The back-end financial engine was built using BEA's Weblogic Java-based application server, which runs on a Sun Solaris server and a Sybase database.

The Weblogic software provided JP Morgan with a calculation engine and a means of uploading financial data. Greig said, "We needed to make it easy to communicate between Excel and Weblogic."

With operations in Asia-Pacific, London and New York, Greig was looking for a simple mechanism that could easily be rolled out to hundreds of desktops. He decided that the best approach to creating this connectivity was to use Simple Object Access Protocol, which was still an emerging technology for web services at the time.

Back in 1991 there were few tools that could cope with linking Soap to the Enterprise Java Beans components within JP Morgan's Weblogic server.

As JP Morgan was working on web services prior to Microsoft's introduction of .net, the links into Excel were created using an older Microsoft tool, the MS Soap Toolkit.

Having evaluated a number of Soap tools, Greig opted for a tool called Wasp, from a relatively new web services entrant, Systinet, for the Weblogic interface.

Wasp is a web services infrastructure platform designed to make it easy to build, deploy and manage secure web services. It is based on industry standards such as XML, Soap, WSDL and UDDI and supports web services implementations such as Microsoft .net architecture.

This financial application for web services is part of a far wider publishing suite at JP Morgan which provides a collection of web-based and desktop applications to manage workflow and content for the firm's analysts.

What is Soap?

Simple Object Access Protocol provides a way for applications running on one computer system to communicate with another application, which may reside in a totally separate system.

It consists of three parts: a framework for describing what is in a message and how to process it, a set of encoding rules and a convention for remote procedure calls and responses.

The Soap standard is controlled by the World Wide Web Consortium. It defines one of the three pillars of web services, the other two being Universal Description, Discovery and Integration and Extensible Markup Language.

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