Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT Group), one of Japan’s foremost telecommunications companies, was looking for a way to keep up with market economic conditions and put some distance between itself and the competition. Client and vendor relationships needed more efficient communication and integration capabilities, and implementing a new technology strategy was imminent. XML looked like the perfect solution, with only one problem—XML standards haven’t been finalized yet. NTT looked to its research and development division, NTT Information Platform Laboratories, to find and test a solution.

Careful consideration
NTT provides services to help enterprises interoperate with their partners, suppliers, and customers. Part of NTT’s three-year business plan called for investing in multimedia or data services, maintaining its competitive edge, and continuing to function within the market economy.

The solution would have far-reaching effects and would be an important move for NTT’s business strategy. It would require careful analysis; one wrong move could seriously damage NTT’s position in a highly competitive industry.

NTT’s lab believes firmly in adopting standardized technology, but it must maneuver intelligently and make immediate use of new technological advances. Web services were the obvious choice for integrating and sharing business processes.

Early adopters
Eiji Yana, senior research engineer at NTT, recognized that NTT would undoubtedly be early adopters of XML and that moving to a technology before standards solidified carried heavy risks.

By deploying its own, custom-developed solution using XML, NTT could face inflated development times and costs as it conformed to international standards that still had the potential to change. Additionally, it would be difficult to determine which standards would be stable enough to implement at various points in time.

The NTT lab team began investigating ways to overcome these risks without losing its technical advantage.

Best of both worlds
On the one hand, the NTT team could feasibly develop the solution itself. This would require a team dedicated to analyzing XML standards and would undoubtedly introduce some rework whenever a standard changed.

On the other hand, the team’s research discovered a third-party vendor, Kinzan, which provides an XML-standards-based application framework called Adaptive Web Services Suite (AWSS). This framework can be used to deploy prebuilt and custom applications, called components, and to facilitate interoperability and integration.

By deploying this third-party solution, the risks involved in working with unstable standards would be deferred to the provider. Kinzan closely monitors XML developments and is involved in many of the standard’s efforts. Kinzan is well positioned to negotiate the timing and appropriateness of XML deployments, removing those risks from NTT’s development teams.

Additionally, with Kinzan Application Framework, functionality has already been written that facilitates integration of custom development and ties components together, providing messaging, security, and presentation.

Put to the test
The future deployment would encompass almost all aspects of NTT’s business practice, including client interactions and internal processes. To evaluate the solution, the lab would test the Kinzan application using a proof-of-concept implementation.

One test the team chose to integrate was a musician’s portal Web site. Functionality included practical applications that would reduce costs and improve efficiency for the portal’s operations. Specific features included the ability to listen to music on the site, purchase CDs and music scores through an e-commerce company, join fan clubs, view a concert calendar, and find artist information including photos. Each feature was implemented using a separate component to demonstrate the interaction between the portal and each application.

In deploying the test solution, the lab found that incorporating its custom development solutions within the Kinzan framework reduced both time-to-delivery and code volume, facilitating development and integration efforts and code base management. By using a third-party framework, NTT estimated the installation put it over a year ahead of a plan for developing the solution itself.

From a development standpoint alone, this is tremendous competitive advantage. When you consider facilitation of future integration and management, this third-party solution continues to make sound business sense.

A sound decision
To date, NTT’s position on the analysis of using a third-party framework for Web services applications is that it will decrease development and production costs, and will give the company a strong advantage in maneuverability over its competitors. This, in turn, will allow NTT to apply effective, compatible solutions enterprise-wide and improve such business values as productivity and capability. NTT’s belief is that this will allow it to reduce costs, expand its market, and deliver better service to clients.