Integrating Enterprise Reporting Seamlessly Using Actuate Web Services API

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1 Any User. Any Data. Any Deployment. Technical White Paper Integrating Enterprise Reporting Seamlessly Using Actuate Web Services API How Web Services Can Be Used to Perform Fast, Efficient, Future-Proof Information Integration within Enterprise Applications Today s enterprise applications have more potential to help corporations reduce costs and increase efficiencies than they have so far shown but only if they can be effectively linked with each other and with strategic applications residing inside the firewalls of business partners. Where enterprise application integration projects fall short and fail to deliver their promised integration value, next-generation web services hold promise as a far more feasible, affordable and future-proof solution.

2 As the leader in Enterprise Reporting Applications for corporate and government organizations, and the technical leader in web services architecture, Actuate delivers the most complete, most interoperable and most flexible Enterprise Reporting web services capabilities, all of which enable corporations to extract maximum value both from their existing enterprise applications, as well as from new investments in development tools and standards. Introduction Enterprise applications have the potential to dramatically improve productivity, reduce costs and increase efficiencies in both front- and back-office business units, including sales, customer service, marketing, manufacturing, engineering/design, accounting and human resource organizations. But to be truly effective, these applications need to present users with key information from their own data sources, as well as from related internal and external applications. Today s ambitious enterprise application integration (EAI) projects, which aim to link applications by automating complex business processes, are years away from completion. For many organizations, web services offer a truly feasible alternative to these custom, lengthy and expensive EAI projects by providing an open, standards-based way to achieve interoperability and customization that is flexible and maintainable over time. Using Actuate s web services offering called the Actuate Web Services Application Programming Interface (API) companies across an array of industries can integrate vital Enterprise Reporting functions into their internal and external applications to establish flexible, standards-based integration that is truly future-proof. Market Overview As web services start to infiltrate enterprise IT projects, the versatility of this technology is becoming increasingly clear. Web services are fulfilling their potential as low-risk, high-utility, data integration catalysts, but they are also emerging in unusual, visionary projects. Gartner Group, August 2002 The 1990s could well become known as the decade of the enterprise application. Enterprise applications including enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation (SFA) applications have become primary levers employed by corporations to increase revenues, implement cost savings, enhance efficiencies and improve productivity. But as companies deployed systems from SAP and PeopleSoft for their back-office operations and Oracle and Siebel for their front office, they have often focused on gathering information ensuring, for example, that customer data is collected from every customer touchpoint, from call center, to web interface, to contact. By contrast, delivering information by the aggregation, analysis, reporting and sharing of critical enterprise data has often been an afterthought. And so Enterprise Reporting Applications have been layered on top of enterprise applications or implemented as stand-alone point applications that perform specific reporting functions such as quarterly revenue reporting and monthly inventory analysis. This disjointed approach to Enterprise Reporting has not necessarily served enterprises well. With enterprise application data residing in isolated information silos, business professionals struggle to perform tasks that rely on information from other departments. Customer service representatives need manufacturing timelines; accounting professionals need sales forecasts; marketing and brand managers need customer complaint data. These problems contribute to an overall perception among many 2

3 business managers that enterprise software has yet to realize its true potential. In a survey of 218 U.S. corporations, for example, IDC found more than 60 percent of business managers placed enhancing existing applications at the top of their software investment priorities, followed closely by integrating internal applications, at 58 percent. Beyond the enterprise, many operations require in-depth information from business partners like suppliers, distributors and consultants. But many companies are still forced to gather and share pieces of extra-enterprise data, such as supplier pricing and inventory and distributor orders and forecasts, through slow and error-prone manual processes. To address these issues, numerous organizations have introduced ambitious, multi-year EAI projects for inter-enterprise integration, and business process integration (BPI) projects for intra-enterprise integration with partners and other external entities. Unfortunately, these projects, which typically call for lengthy business process analysis, custom coding and exhaustive prototyping and testing, too often result in inflexible solutions that are difficult and costly to maintain. Enter Web Services IDC has identified web services, an architecture for providing application-to-application interoperation, as a technology that will play an increasingly important role in integration initiatives. IDC, March 2002 For these reasons and many others, information technology (IT) and line-of-business managers are increasingly turning to a new, standardsbased integration model collectively known as web services. Most narrowly defined as software components that respond to service requests using a set of open, web-based standards, web services offer the promise of fast, comprehensive and flexible application integration, at a fraction of the cost of custom EAI and BPI projects. By leveraging web services components (or building blocks ) for distributed information delivery, companies can tie together critical business processes using open interfaces and standards to create future-proof solutions. Since such components can be easily called by, or embedded into, enterprise applications using standard application programming interfaces (APIs), they offer a modular, high-level approach to all types of application integration requirements. In addition, they can be used to tackle smaller, more easily defined integration projects to generate results quickly. As a result, web services can facilitate and accelerate existing EAI projects, or in some cases, replace these projects entirely. Applications built using web services are more flexible and less costly to maintain than custom EAI and BPI solutions, since web-service components can be easily swapped in and out as business needs change. Web services also pave the way toward peer-topeer (P2P) computing by decentralizing application functionality and making processes more openly available to other applications. When implemented carefully, web services can also provide highly secure solutions for intra-enterprise integration. Web services are an especially useful model for information delivery, since fetching, transforming and delivering data are processes that can be separated into useful web-based components and called or embedded within enterprise applications efficiently and securely. When architected in a modular fashion using open standards and interfaces, Enterprise Reporting web services have significant potential for streamlining and simplifying application information integration tasks. Not surprisingly, Enterprise Reporting vendors have introduced a wide range of web services capabilities to meet growing market demand. With the industry s most comprehensive web services API, broadest support of web services standards and an open, modular architecture based on core web services standards, Actuate Corporation is the technical and market leader in web services for Enterprise Reporting. 3

4 The Actuate Web Services Solution Through their SOAP API, Actuate is the only reporting software we ve seen that provides 100 percent control over the full range of functions required to integrate report generation, distribution and management within our Clarity solution. A key advantage of CascadeWorks Clarity is the configurability of our web-native architecture, and by integrating Actuate with our web services framework, we will be able to provide our customers much easier and much more flexible access to data in a distributed web architecture. Todd Greene, CTO, CascadeWorks IT and business managers who are evaluating web services solutions for Enterprise Reporting should consider the openness, interoperability and range of control offered by potential web services solutions. These qualities directly impact the level of integration that can be achieved by the proposed web services solution, and therefore how automated, flexible and maintainable it will be over time. Actuate offers the industry s most open and complete web services solution, featuring: A high-performance, open architecture that delivers a wide range of pre-built, reusable Enterprise Reporting Application components. Actuate s open Web Services API has been written entirely as a pure web API, leveraging the latest advances in Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) for easy accessibility. This ensures that developers have the full array of capabilities they require to build flexible, robust integration applications, both within and across enterprises. Actuate s industry-leading architecture also helps decrease time to market for delivery of powerful Enterprise Reporting Applications, by allowing easy integration into any application through full support of industry standards. By contrast, other business intelligence providers resort to wrappers to expose APIs as web services, which can limit the versatility of applications built using their technologies. Full control through complete automation. Unlike many business intelligence vendors that offer only 10 percent or less of their systems capabilities as web services, Actuate delivers 100 percent of its functionality as easily called web services components. As a result, enterprises can achieve full automation of Enterprise Reporting solutions, so they can embed Enterprise Reporting capabilities into any application, regardless of the complexity of underlying network and information infrastructures. The Actuate Web Services API also simplifies Enterprise Reporting system maintenance and reduces maintenance costs over time. This is because its complete programmability and automation minimize and even eliminate the need for custom code, and because multiple application product versions and upgrades can be supported without the need to re link or re compile Actuate web services components. The Actuate Web Services API includes: Object management Including full control over creating, deleting, copying and editing reporting objects for any usage scenario Delivery Including support for printing, other delivery channels and internationalization support for consumption by any audience Viewing Including all aspects of content retrieval, report lists, parameter values and custom formatting for any information consumption environment Execution Including event-driven interaction based upon external events and alerts enabling the timeliness of information to be relevant for the entire web service User management Including complete management of users, groups and roles internally or based on standards from other web services Privileges Including access control rights for structured and unstructured content, authentication and security control Monitoring Including operational tracking and consolidation of process properties and detail across the web service Scheduling Including control over submitting, canceling and updating job status 4

5 File type management Including selection, updating and specifying current and future report file types Volume management Including full control over an Actuate encyclopedia volume or instance for flexibility in web services management and administration Highly interoperable solution that offers the industry s most complete web services API, accessible using the widest range of web services platforms and tools. The Actuate Web Services API is the only Enterprise Reporting solution that is tested and proven for both J2EE and Microsoft.NET environments. And it is also the only such solution to offer support for creating custom Enterprise Reporting components beyond the pre-built services offered in the Actuate architecture. This flexibility ensures that corporations can reduce their development costs by utilizing the full range of developer skills, while they future-proof their applications by leveraging industry-accepted open standards. Actuate s interoperability even extends to security and directory integration, so that corporations can maximize their existing investments in authentication and authorization systems while calling and manipulating Actuate components. Actuate Web Services at Work: Enterprise Integration Business Scenario For most corporate organizations, initial deployments of web services technologies focus on integration of enterprise data among internal systems. For example, a high-end printer manufacturer faces a monumental integration challenge when it finds that its customerfacing portal application lacks access to productshipment data residing in a back-end manufacturing database. Customers seeking shipment status are forced to cut and paste from multiple portal screens, and even gather information manually through phone calls to the company s 800 number. The company can use the Actuate Web Services API to implement fast integration between the customer facing portal and the back-end database. Developers can use J2EE tools to embed a highly functional set of targeted services within the portal application. These services fetch up-to-date shipment information on both a scheduled and ad hoc basis, then format the data for seamless presentation within the portal. All data access, authentication and authorization rights can be handled by the portal application, which calls and controls the Actuate services through the Web Services API. This simple web services integration project can be designed, built, tested and rolled out in a matter of weeks to meet the company s urgent need to present timely information to its customers. By contrast, custom integration projects that seek to link internal applications at the business process level consume months or even years of expensive development time and consulting fees. By leveraging existing development resources and avoiding the modification and or reconfiguration of existing enterprise applications, the company can dramatically reduce time-to-market and development costs, while ensuring high levels of security and maintainability. Summary Today s enterprise applications have more potential to help corporations reduce costs and increase efficiencies than they have so far shown but only if they can be effectively linked with each other and with strategic applications residing inside the firewalls of business partners. Where EAI and BPI projects fall short and fail to deliver their promised integration value, next-generation web services hold promise as a far more feasible, affordable and future-proof solution. As the leader in Enterprise Reporting Applications for corporate and government organizations and the technical leader in web services architecture, Actuate delivers the most complete, most interoperable and most flexible Enterprise Reporting web services capabilities, all of which enable corporations to extract the most value both from their existing enterprise applications, as well as from new investments in development tools and standards. Actuate Corporation 2207 Bridgepointe Parkway Suite 500 San Mateo, CA Tel: (888) Web: 5

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