For Tony D'Agostino, the idea clicked last summer at a conference on Nantucket Island. The chief operating officer of Wachovia Securities Inc. had been looking for a fast and inexpensive way to bring a new data source into an internal Web site when he heard a presentation on Web services. Within a few months, Wachovia Securities became not just an early adopter of the new approach to data delivery and integration but a catalyst to inspire one of its main information providers--Thomson Financial--to get deeply involved, too.
D'Agostino's interest was piqued a few weeks before the conference when he read a 25-page research report on Web services by Wachovia's Internet software analysts. So when he heard Ron Palmeri, VP of business development for Grand Central Communications Inc., pitch an approach to application integration using industry-standard interfaces, D'Agostino followed up. His question: "How do I understand how a business applies some of these Web services?" Within days, the two were mapping out a plan, and by January, Thomson was feeding its financial-industry data into Wachovia's site as a Web service.
Wachovia's problem was finding an easy way to give stock analysts access to some of Thomson's financial information--including its popular First Call consensus estimate of companies' upcoming earnings--through Wachovia's research intranet, called Equity Spotlight. Grand Central, an application-integration and hosting company, served as the intermediary to make it happen, through its computer network, which supports Soap, XML, and other Web-services standards.
The hands-on work to establish the connection from Thomson Financial to Wachovia Securities took only about a week, Palmeri said. "Helping people understand how they can apply it, that's the harder part," he said.
D'Agostino was a quick study, but he had an advantage--a background in IT. Before joining Wachovia, he helped manage day-to-day operations of a supercomputer center. He says Web services offer a faster, less-expensive way to deliver the First Call data than the alternative--a dedicated connection requiring a leased phone line, a special-purpose server, and more-complicated integration.
Now, Wachovia and Thomson plan to build on their experience by extending Web services to other partners and customers. Thomson just last month said it would start offering its wares as Web services via Grand Central. "We're starting to look at Web services as more than a convenient way to deliver things," said Mark Barbagallo, VP of distributive technologies for Thomson. "We're starting to look at them as part of our competitive strategy going forward."
For example, Thomson now sells customized data as a premium service. With Web services, the company might be able to repackage a subset of that data and deliver it inexpensively, essentially creating a new product. "A year from now," Barbagallo said, "most of our major clients will have some relationship with us that's done through a Web service."
D'Agostino, meanwhile, has served as a kind of Web-services evangelist within Wachovia Corp., the parent company of Wachovia Securities. So much so, he says he's trying to wean himself from involvement in it all. Given what he's started, that may be impossible to do.