May 23, 2003, 12:00 AM

Staples plans for more web services applications

The office supplies retailer sees web services as the ticket to make corporate information accessible throughout more than 1,000 locations, and to provide back-end system integration regardless of operating platform.

To better distribute corporate information from multiple back-end systems, Staples Inc is migrating its IT infrastructure into a web services environment, Jeff Conners, information systems manager for enterprise web systems, tells "Our focus is to move much more into the web services arena, due to the interoperability it offers to connect systems,” he says.

Conners notes that, with about 1,200 store and corporate support locations, Staples has struggled to build integration into back-end software applications to make information accessible corporatewide. "There`s tremendous value in going to more web-based solutions for organizations with large populations not in a central site," Conners says. "In the past, we had to do a lot of heavy lifting to get to the same point that web services will bring us to." Web services technology uses XML and other Internet-based data integration standards that support integration between disparate systems and enable automated push and pull of data between applications.

In addition to using web services to integrate particular applications--for example, to let managers access a portal-based sales management application that pulls sales records from back-end databases--Staples is figuring how to use web services to build integration throughout its core enterprise servers, regardless of whether they operate in J2EE, Websphere, Apache or other environments, Conners says. Going forward, back-end server integration will support automated updates of information, such as sales and inventory data, among different enterprise applications.

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