Web services enter the mainstream

Just six months ago, web services were a dirty word in the world of IT. However, proving that six months can be a long time in terms of technology, Gartner Dataquest is now suggesting that web services have hit the big time.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  May 4, 2003

Just six months ago, web services were a dirty word in the world of IT. Both analysts and end users alike were suggesting that they were unlikely to hit the mainstream anytime soon, while many vendors were delivering mixed messages at best.

IDC’s research director, Rikki Kirzner, was the most damning; arguing that the web services vision was little more than a skeleton lacking any real flesh. “Most of the web services vision is just pure speculation, with no real consideration of what is achievable and [what] it will cost to actually build out the vision for full use on the open internet,” he said.

However, proving that six months can be a long time in terms of technology, Gartner Dataquest is now suggesting that web services have hit the big time. In fact, the analyst house reports that 92% of respondents to its recent web services survey are using the technology in current system integration projects, while a further 86% of enterprises use Extensible Markup Language (XML) on a regular basis.

Furthermore, Gartner reports that the use of web services by system integrators for business-to-business (B2B) solutions increased by 8%, which suggests that usage has matured beyond the first stages of intraenterprise web services pilot projects.

Thomas Kurian, vice president of the development for Oracle9i Application Server at Oracle believes the increased adoption of web services stems from users’ growing desire to integrate applications in a cheap and easy fashion, especially as IT budgets are particularly tight at the moment.

“One of the big things CIOs wanted to do today is get that software spend that they have already done, better used across the organisation. And a big part of it is better integrating those systems that they have purchased with legacy system… Web services gives them a nice way of getting inter-operability between all of these systems so it allows them to leverage their existing investment better,” he says.

However, while the outlook for web services has become more positive, there are still a number of hurdles to overcome. Gartner Dataquest, for instance, suggests that user understanding of web services remains basic and that usage of web services standards remains low when XML is taken out of the equation. For instance, only 31% of users deploy SOAP, 14% use UDDI and only a paltry 3% have turned to WSDL.

Furthermore, the analyst house suggests that while implementing web services as a technology is relatively easy, the associated business process re-engineering is a little trickier, especially for large enterprises.

“Enterprises and vendors alike will need to address both the business and technology aspects of web services to ensure project success,” states Gartner.

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