Web Services Trends

I’ve noticed that most small package carriers now offer web services solutions. This is great to see; it really lowers the barrier for integrating carriers in a variety of ways. I realize it is not a new trend; it’s just that it now feels pervasive. Essentially, finding a small package carrier with a recognizable name that doesn’t offer a web services solution should be hard to come by.

Back in 2004, one of the first projects I was given at ERS was to build a manifesting system for UPS. There was no web services solution so I had to learn the specific business rules that applied to my employer’s usage of UPS and determine how best to enforce those constraints programmatically. The certification process took several weeks to complete and the most frustrating aspect was getting the ARS (Authorized Return Service) labels blessed as I was told they were not something that was often implemented. I won’t go into the frustrations that are recurring compliancy changes and ever changing data sets (e.g. URC codes) that need to be loaded on a fixed interval.

Now fast forward to 2012, I would simply need to focus on properly executing the applicable web service endpoint and all of the business rules would be enforced by the remote UPS system I was in communication with. Those very same labels would potentially be provided by another web service call; I would simply print them and no grueling certification process would be required. In fact, there would be a solid chance that compliancy changes on the UPS backend would be hidden from me so I would automatically stay current. I’m obviously glossing over the fact that there is more to this, but my intent is to illustrate that the heavy lifting is now done for you.

I’ve often wondered what it would look like to build a modern Parcel system that interfaced solely with small package carriers through their various web services solutions. What would be the lowest common denominator in terms of features? Would it scale to several thousand, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of packages on a daily basis? Could this abstraction be delivered as a SaaS offering?

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