Did the shot ring out? Is the revolution on?
The groundswell of Web services hype should be sweeping through a network near you soon -- that is, if it hasn't already. The vendor community with its intellectual capital, R&D reservoirs, and marketing machines is aggressively rolling out the next big thing. Perhaps the greatest effort is being focused on the developer community, with a whole new generation of tools for building, connecting, and delivering Web Services applications.
The fuel that is feeding the fire for Web services is a potent combination of XML, its incumbent standards, and the Internet with its open protocols. The paradigm that is guiding the push is the offspring of a distributed, component-based computing environment. Building a Web-based application is just dipping a toe in the greater Web services pool. Diving in would encompass building a Web-based component, possibly a whole application, and then connecting it over the Internet so that anyone needing the functionality of said component/application can utilize it for whatever business goal lies in front of them. Currently UDDI is being touted as the "Guide to the Web Services Galaxy" for those looking to hook up transactions.
All of this sounds simple enough in theory, but the theory quickly gets complicated when you factor in the current heterogeneity of a typical enterprise architecture, the varying skills available, and the crunch of market pressures and resource limitations. In addition, if everyone is supporting the same set of standards, does it really matter whose tools and deployment platform you use for Web services? What kind of revolution are we getting into?
THE HURWITZ TAKE: It's recruiting season in the application development world, with vendors rolling out plans and products and lining up partner support for their Web services development platforms. What's at stake? Getting new recruits from the ranks of the development community to join the Web services brigade. Developers tend to be loyal and stand by their IDE of choice, but with the changes from VisualBasic to VisualBasic.NET, plus the lure of Java, Microsoft's competitors are hoping that some of the millions of VB developers might consider changing their stripes. With so much at stake, vendors are beefing up their developer communications to keep the troops content and in formation and let them know how they will achieve Web services victory together. For tool vendors, the marketing battle is being fought over whose tools will provide the easiest implementation for Web services.
The application server vendors are smiling about the prospect of Web services because they are positioning their respective products as the deployment containers for the next generation of service components. Vying to be Web services command central to connect all the pieces -- applications, integration, business process management -- application server vendors see this as a golden opportunity to draw more people to their platform. Things will get more interesting in the application server market as vendors look for a bigger piece of the pie and continue to build services around the application server.
For integration technology, emerging Web services will serve to keep the revenue coming in. Building and deploying Web services is one thing, but reliably getting them from Point A to Points X,Y, and Z is essential to making the whole vision work. We all know that XML all by itself won't save the world, or at least we should know by now that XML is only a part of the overall equation. There is still a great deal of integration pain within the four walls of the enterprise, and building Web services only drives the need for internal integration. Particularly in light of the enormous amount of corporate data and business logic that resides in legacy mainframe environments, enterprises will need scalable and efficient ways to expose these core assets as Web services. Furthermore, enterprises will need easy-to-use visual tools to guide business decisions when it comes to crunch time for assembling Web services to fulfill a business process -- enter the rising star of business process management vendors.
An overarching theme is to put the potential power of Web services in the hands of the business decision makers so that enterprises minimize the disconnect when a business goal is thrown over the wall into the IT camp. This kind of vision requires an IT infrastructure that is highly flexible and extensible, as well as a business culture that is confident that it can rely on software to empower decision-making. Perhaps the shot has rung out, but careful planning is needed for this revolution to succeed.
Copyright 2002 Hurwitz Group Inc. This article is excerpted from TrendWatch, a weekly publication of Hurwitz Group Inc. - an analyst, research, and consulting firm. To register for a free email subscription, click here.
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