Will Web services be around after this year?
- By Linda Briggs
Deciding when a flashy new term or technology is going to actually become important is always iffy. You only have to look at last year's headlines to see just how many trends pop up, seem crucial, then end up as flotsam in the sea of IT. In fact, one of your biggest challenges in managing large enterprises might well be deciding when a technology, product or service is ready to be a corporate asset rather than an embarrassment you have to explain away at next year's budget meetings.
Web services is one of those ideas. Though the term might eventually end up on the IT scrap heap, the concept itself is virtually guaranteed to survive in some form. It's just too obvious, fits too well with where the Internet has taken us—and has garnered too much interest from some of the largest software companies. Whatever we end up calling it, it's going to drastically affect how software is developed and distributed, as well as the Web's architecture overall.
The biggest question with Web services is the scope of its adoption. It already makes sense (and is being implemented) in some limited business-to-business uses; the bigger question is whether large numbers of companies will really decide that it makes good business sense to "publish" their software, wrapped in XML and SOAP, thus sharing their Web services with others. The public UDDI directory set up by Microsoft, Ariba and IBM is a start, but more are needed.
Analysts predict that it will take three to five years for Web services to blossom into the full-sharing model that's envisioned. But that doesn't mean you should ignore the concept. The biggest players certainly aren't. IBM, Oracle, Sun and Microsoft, to name four, shall we say, fairly significant platform vendors, are each showing a keen interest in making lasting footprints in the Web services sands while they can. Trouble is, they all define it just a bit differently-especially (no surprise here) Microsoft.
To try to help you understand just what the phenomenon is, how it's being shaped and argued over, and how it will affect you, we've devoted a fair number of pages in this issue to examining Web services from several angles. To help you see where it's going and when you should jump in-if you haven't already-we zoom in on what the big vendors are sayng, as well as showing you some examples of Web services in action. We also look at XML, which is clearly, along with Java, one of the driving forces behind Web services, well on its way to becoming the lingua franca for data exchange between companies.
To track where this revolution will take us, to help you follow the various standards, key players, platforms and strategies, and to help you gauge how your enterprise is tracking with others in its commitment to or (avoidance of) Web services, we're also launching a new newsletter and an area within our Web site that will focus exclusively on Web services. It will keep you tuned to the latest moves from the big players, along with news and analysis-all to help you make the most informed decisions you can. (Check it out after Oct. 1 at www.esj.com/newsletters/, subscribe to the newsletter and let us know what you think.)
As an IT manager, you'll help shape the Web services revolution by your timing in jumping on board. How soon do you plan to move on Web services, and how? Let me know at Lbriggs@esj.com.
Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.