WS-I Profiles Case Study: Ford and AIAG
WS-I Profiles Structure Supply Chain Interoperability for Ford Motor Company, Through AIAG
Web Services Interoperability Organization Issues Case Study
Wakefield, MA, USA. December 08, 2008.
The Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I: http://www.ws-i.org) has published a case study that describes how its Profiles enabled the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG: http://www.aiag.org) to develop the interoperable, secure set of cross-supply-chain process templates that Ford Motor Company required. The document is available for download at no charge from http://www.ws-i.org/about/casestudies.aspx.
WS-I is an open industry organization chartered to establish Best Practices for Web services interoperability. The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) is a not-for-profit association serving the automotive industry, with 1100 members from around the world. Ford (http://www.ford.com) is an American multinational corporation and the world's fourth-largest automaker. The deliverables created for Ford are available through AIAG to all of its members.
The Challenge: An Interoperable Supply Chain
Ford was seeking to establish reliable information channels and processes that would work across their entire supply chain. Ford approached AIAG with the goal of developing processes that would be interoperable and secure for all points in the supply chain, not only inside Ford. Ford wanted to be able to plug securely into a service architecture designed for business-tobusiness use: an approach that would work between and among organizations, versus a collection of proprietary technologies for individual members of the supply chain.
WS-I Profiles: the Road to Ongoing Success
Upon investigation, a Web services implementation promised the best combination of security, reliability, integration ease and service orientation, and the decision was made to employ WS-I Profiles. An AIAG Work Group, co-chaired by Faisal Waris from Ford and composed of people from organizations that included Ford, General Motors, IBM, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Fujitsu, iConnect, Axway, NIST and Wipro, proceeded in stages: first the proof of concept, an inventory management project; second, adding additional capacity to the transport layer; and third, involving more vendors, a Kanban implementation that first used simple Web services, then applied more advanced specifications.
"There were challenges along the way, and WS-I was key to getting where we were going," said Waris. "We learned that interoperability is extremely hard to achieve, and without WS-I Profiles, almost impossible."
Today, Ford's enterprise policies require WS-I Profile conformance for Web services implementations. The company is now using WS-I profiles in the development of business-tobusiness production processes. More details about the Ford-AIAG projects are available upon request.
The Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) is an open industry organization chartered to establish Best Practices for Web services interoperability, for selected groups of Web services standards, across platforms, operating systems and programming languages.
WS-I comprises a diverse community of Web services leaders from a wide range of companies and standards development organizations (SDOs). WS-I committees and working groups create Profiles and supporting Testing Tools based on Best Practices for selected sets of Web services standards.
The Profiles and Testing Tools are available for use by the Web Services community to aid in developing and deploying interoperable Web services. WS-I also submits selected deliverables to standards bodies for eventual publication as international standards. WS-I deliverables may be downloaded at no charge from http://www.ws-i.org/deliverables/index.aspx. For more information, visit http://www.ws-i.org or send email to email@example.com
WS-I Profiles: Structuring Web Services Interoperability for Ford at AIAG
The Challenge of an Interoperable Supply Chain
"Around 2002, Ford was looking at putting in place reliable information channels and processes that would cut across their entire supply chain. About 5% of their transactions at the time were being lost along the way, in a tangle of applications that didn't play well together," said Tim Fowler, Supply Chain and E-commerce Director at AIAG. "What they had wasn't working, and it could not be fixed. They needed to start over with a completely different model, so they enlisted AIAG's resources to help."
"Ford wanted an easy way to implement processes that would be interoperable and secure for all points in the supply chain, not just inside Ford. Interoperability was the key ingredient — as opposed to using a set of proprietary technologies. Ford wanted to be able to plug securely into a service architecture designed for the business-to-business space — an approach that would work between and among organizations, versus separate things that worked with individual members of the supply chain."
A number of possible approaches and competing technologies were available at the time, such as EDI and ebXML. However, on balance Web Services promised the best combination of security, reliability, integration ease and service orientation. Web services appeared to be the best choice to create the model supply chain process implementations Ford sought, even though Web services specifications were far less mature than they are today.
WS-I Profiles: The Road to the Solution
Fowler was already acquainted with WS-I Profiles... Eventually, Faisal Waris from Ford co-chaired an AIAG Work Group of about 20 people from organizations such as Ford, General Motors, IBM, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Fujitsu, iConnect, Axway, NIST and Wipro. When complete, the deliverables would be available under the AIAG umbrella to all of its members.
The effort proceeded in stages. Beginning in 2003 was the proof of concept: an inventory management project (MinMax) that involved many players. The second project added additional capacity to the transport layer. Phase three, involving more vendors, was a Kanban implementation that first used simple Web services, then applied more advanced specifications. Looming over the last effort, which began at the end of 2005, was the deadline to present the work at AIAG's annual conference in September 2006.
Ongoing Success with WS-I Profiles
Today, Ford's enterprise policies require WS-I Profile conformance for Web services implementations. The company is now using WS-I profiles in the development of businessto- business production processes. In an innovative approach, Ford and AIAG have paired end-user companies with application vendors for several more implementations. The Ford- AIAG Web services efforts to date have made use of WS-I Basic Profile 1.1 and WS-I Basic Security Profile 1.0. New Profiles and updates will be incorporated as they are published.
The original proof-of-concept materials are available to the automotive industry through AIAG. The Architecture and WSDL files can be downloaded by AIAG members, and a subset is also offered to the public. AIAG now makes a point to direct its new members toward WS-I Profiles when they express interest in Web services. "AIAG is deeply interested in using the WS-I Profiles and in proving them out," said Fowler.
The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) is a not-for-profit association serving the automotive industry. Retailers, automakers, suppliers and service providers work collaboratively at AIAG to drive cost and complexity from the supply chain via global standards development and harmonized business practices. AIAG's 1100 members come from around the world.
Contact Information for WS-I
Prepared by Robin Cover for The XML Cover Pages archive. See also "Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I)."