Web Services Market Is Getting Crowded

Microsoftis the most visible company pushing the Web services development model, butit’s not the only one. Many of the major players in the industry -- includingIBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle -- are coming out with their own version ofthe .NET strategy.

Redmond hasbeen pushing .NET for months, aggressively trying to explain to the IT publicwhat it is and what it means. Microsoft is calling it a “bet-the-company”strategy, and it’s clear that’s not an exaggeration. Bill Gates is once againinto software development, and .NET functionality is being built into every newserver product that’s released.

Othercompanies have rolled out their own versions of the ideal with much lessfanfare and press attention, and, frankly, less emphasis by the companiesthemselves. But these strategies are still very important to the long-term goalsof the businesses.

Accordingto Joshua Greenbaum, principal analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting,all the products “are quite similar. They all want to deliver applicationservices in a hosted manner as an infrastructure play.”

IBM has themost well-known Web services platform after Microsoft. Unveiled in November,the IBM XML and Web services development environment (WSDE) will allow “HTML,Java, SQL, and XML developers to quickly extend existing e-businessapplications to deliver business informational Web services,” according to anIBM press release.

Webservices allow applications to talk to each other over the Internet, withouthuman intervention. Examples include online credit card processing,package-tracking applications, software renting, and universal discovery anddescription and integration (UDDI), essentially a directory of onlinebusinesses and the services they offer.

Alsooffered on IBM’s Web site is its free Web services toolkit, which provides aruntime as well as demos and executables for developers.

Oracle’soffering is Oracle9i Dynamic Services. Oracle calls 9i Dynamic Services “aframework that allows applications to interact with Web and databaseinformation sources using standard protocols. The Java and XML framework insulatesdevelopers from the complexity of interacting with multiple content sources,protocols, and delivery channels.”

Hewlett-Packard’sversion of Web services is called e-speak. It consists of two primary pieces:the services framework specification (SFS) and the service engine.

SFS,according to HP, “defines standard business and technical conventions thatallow e-services to dynamically interact with each other. These interactions --including discovery, negotiation, composition, measurement and monitoring --are based on a common interaction model and enable disparate business processesto be represented as a standard SFS conversation on the Internet.” The serviceengine is the deployment engine for SFS.

Among thosefour entries in the Web services market, Greenbaum says Oracle is the companybest-positioned to make a killing.

“I have totip my hat to Oracle,” Greenbaum says. “They’re the ones that actually sellapplications in this space. They sort of jumped out with high-end applications[that take advantage of Web services], like OracleSalesOnline. The fact thatthey’re there as a strategic applications vendor and hosted services vendorputs them at a distinct advantage right away.”

Microsoft,he says, remains the infrastructure provider that sells solid tools but nothingmore -- and certainly not Web service applications yet.

He pointsout that none of the offerings are mature. “I think the most important thingabout the products is that they are works in progress. [They’re all] focusingon the same kind of issue of delivering software as a service.”

Hewlett-Packardand IBM are similar to Microsoft, Greenbaum says, in that their strength hasn’tbeen in building applications to take advantage of the framework.

Microsoftcould have an impact, Greenbaum says, if it can retune its thinking about wherethe money’s really going to be made in the Web services arena. “I firmlybelieve Microsoft needs to move up the food chain, and can move up. They’ve gota lot of structural issues, a lot of inertia they have [to overcome], but theycould be a competitor at the very high end if they choose.”

One thingthat’s certain, Greenbaum says, is that Web services is set to take off.There’s money to be made here: lots of it. The market is “going to acceleratebecause of ease of use and cost factors. Eventually, I think the vast majorityof new products, services, and implementations are going to be focused on thisdelivery model.”


Hewlett-PackardCo., Palo Alto, Calif.,www.hp.com

IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., www.ibm.com

MicrosoftCorp., Redmond, Wash.,www.microsoft.com

OracleCorp., Redwood Shores,Calif., www.oracle.com