<p>COLUMBIA, S. C. – As if the acronym-challenged credit union exec doesn't have enough to think about, now you have to care about the SOAP. And WSDL, and maybe even UDDI. SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol. WSDL stands for Web Services Description Language. UDDI stands for Universal Description, Discovery and Interaction. SOAP, WSDL and UDDI are open standards used to develop integrated, Web-based applications. Within that process, SOAP involves data transfer. WSDL describes what services are available. UDDI lists them. This mishmash can be grouped together under the umbrella of Web services, a name given to what can be called the second stage of the Internet's growth. The first was driven by the use of Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) to depict information, usually text and pictures, over the Web, primarily for individual consumption. This second phase is being powered by XML (Extensible Markup Language), which formats data in ways that allows applications to access each other over the Web using a string of standards and specifications (SOAP, WSDL and UDDI all are examples) that have recently been developed. So, you can see that Web services means using Internet middleware (software that connects software, is a rough definition of that) to allow applications of various kinds to work together, connecting disparate systems, networks and hardware. So, why is this happening now? "Because the entire software industry has finally decided that it can make more money by letting firms and consumers easily share information than by keeping data locked away," according to Ted Schadler of Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "It's what any maturing industry is forced to do: Make sure their product works with everybody else's products. In a word: standards," Schadler wrote in a May 2002 report: "The Truth about Web Services." "Think light bulb socket, two-by-four lumber and standard-gauge rail beds – each of those standards led to an explosion of use," Schadler observed. KEEP THIS IN MIND A lot to remember? Not to worry. It's the job of your technology partners, including your key vendors, to help you make sense out of all this. "We really don't talk about four-letter acronyms, generally," said Dave Brim, e-architect at Summit Systems, the Oregon-based provider of core processing for hundreds of credit unions. "We just talk about the spectrum of Web services and what it offers to our credit union clients," said Brim, whose company is deeply involved in Web services and other open access technology. "The beautiful thing about Web services is that there's great support out there from Microsoft and all the other big players already. And there's the simplicity. You can do in three lines of code now what used to take 600 lines," Brim said. And at the credit union office, that simplicity translates to staffers easily being able to perform such functions as customizing transaction entry fields, said Krishna Rao, Summit's executive vice president. He said Summit began implementing SOAP standards in 2000 and that now Web services strategies are implemented in Summit's Internet banking, content/ document management and account services. "Additionally, the Summit Spectrum core processing system is Web-service enabled so our customers can easily integrate core transaction capabilities into their Web pages and third-party applications," Rao said. Another reason not to worry about remembering all those acronyms is that your core-processing partner may not even be using them yet. For instance, Online Resources "does not currently utilize the SOAP protocol. But we employ many similar XML-based network services for various applications, including bill presentment, Quicken/OFX and check imaging," said Paul Franko, chief technology officer for the Internet banking specialist in McLean, Va. He added, "The key advantage to SOAP, WSDL and UDDI once they become mainstream and heavily deployed in our business space is the standardization they bring to Internet services, "Standardization reduces costs, improves quality and time to market, and offers more choices to clients." Franko said Online Resources, which has 237 CU clients, expects to adopt SOAP technology as it becomes a more widely accepted standard, but added, "To date, we have evaluated a few existing SOAP implementations from several sources. Our experience is that SOAP is not in widespread use in our business space, although there are plans to migrate in that direction." His take on SOAP is similar to that of Zandy Reinshagen, director of product delivery at San Diego-based Symitar Systems Inc., core processor for about 360 credit unions. "Quite honestly, I'd characterize SOAP as a possibly emerging, not-ready-for-prime-time standard, at least in the credit union marketplace," he said. "We've had no inquiries from our clients on this topic and I'd be surprised if we received any in the next few months." Reinshagen stressed that SOAP's day may yet arrive, but added: "One thing I want to make clear is that simply adopting a particular standard does not necessarily translate to a better product. A better product comes from adopting good standards that coincide with the development philosophy of the company." And, he added this caveat: "I've seen far too many credit unions get caught in the buzzword compliance trap. Credit unions need to have a clear vision of their business, their members' needs, the services they need to offer to stay competitive, and where they want to take the credit union over the next five to 10 years. "If the credit union's technology partner can fulfill all of these needs, it doesn't really matter whether that vendor is compliant with any one particular buzzword or another." -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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