Summit: Microsoft to Drive Web Services in ‘02

A new report by information technology analyst firm Summit Strategies predicts Web services will move from conjecture to reality in 2002 behind some real-world implementations led by Microsoft’s release of .NET My Services.

The report, called Summit Seven, is an effort to pinpoint the seven top forces in the technology industry for the coming year. Web services, according to Summit, will continue to be a key conversation point in 2002, but one based less on hypotheticals and more on the concrete.

“There’s been a lot of talk and not a lot of action on Web services so far,” says Dwight Davis, a vice president at Summit. However, he says the expected official release of Microsoft’s .NET My Services as a complete suite of solutions will help flesh out what Web services are for a developer community that remains a bit unsure of the new technology.

.NET My Services, formerly code-named HailStorm, is Microsoft’s family of XML Web services, which includes the company’s Passport authentication and authorization offering as well as its .NET Alerts technology. Both Passport and .NET Alerts have already been released to the public, but Microsoft is believed to be preparing an entire portfolio of services under the My Services tag. Davis believes My Services in its entirety will be available by the fourth quarter of 2002.

“It’s still a little unclear to me, and the rest of the industry as well I think, as to when [the My Services suite] will actually become a public specification,” says Davis. Although, he says, there has been talk of a fourth-quarter launch of new My Services-centric data centers by Microsoft, which he feels signals a similar time frame for the complete My Services solution set.

Davis describes the coming of My Services as an important step for Web services. “[My Services] will help solidify in [developer’s] minds exactly what Web services are,” he says. “It’ll start to move Web services from the abstract and theoretical to the real.”

Summit also points to a number other factors that will enable Web services uptake in 2002. The emergence of more developer tools for building Web services will have marked impact on the number of real-world implementations in 2002, says Summit. Again, Summit sees Microsoft at the forefront of this trend with the pending release of its VisualStudio .NET developer platform, which boasts robust support for Web services standards and protocols, including SOAP, UDDI and WSDL. At its Professional Developer Conference in November, Microsoft distributed over 7,000 copies of the first release candidate of VisualStudio .NET.

On the Java side of the equation, Summit says IBM and Sun have been equally active in bringing Web services capabilities to developers. In November, IBM contributed $40 million in software to an open-source developer tool platform called Eclipse. And Sun has been adding support for Web Services to its Forte for Java line of developer tools for the past year, announcing enhanced support for SOAP, UDDI and WSDL just this week.

Among the biggest challenges Web services will face in the future, says Davis, is interoperability. He says, in order for the concept to deliver on its promise of the open and free exchange of information between disparate systems, services created with different tools must be able to work together. Davis is optimistic this will happen, as he says it appears the SOAP specification has already overcome some initial interoperability issues.

In addition, Davis says Web services may be hindered a bit by some definitional problems. He says, right now there are two prevalent beliefs about what Web services are: one camp sees Web services as Web-based components that support Web services standards and protocols; the other camp calls any Web-based application that uses SOAP for data interchange a Web service.

Overall, though, Davis believes the momentum behind Web services is undeniable. “There is clear industry consensus among the major industry vendors that this Web services concept is going to be the future,” says Davis. “Now it’s just a matter of proving that Web services can live up to their promise of interoperability with each other.”

About the Author

Matt Migliore is regular contributor to ENTmag.com. He focuses particularly on Microsoft .NET and other Web services technologies. Matt was the editor of several technology-related Web publications and electronic newsletters, including Web Services Report, ASP insights and MIDRANGE Systems.