Five Hurdles to Implementing Web Services

Delphi Group’s report notes that with Web services, “standards” have yet to be perfectly defined. The result: At this stage with Web services, there is a lack of best-practices, leaving a developer of Web services with many choices. The bottom line here, according to Delphi Group: “Early adopters of Web services will learn how to architect them by traveling the hard path of trial and error.”

Fourth, IT execs are worried about presenting a perceived business case when it comes to pushing a Web services agenda. The good news: The cost of implementing the technology isn’t nearly as significant as other IT projects.

“Web services, related to other technology implementations, is actually fairly inexpensive, you’re not talking implementing a whole lot of new hardware. The value proposition is extending what you have already,” says Hawes. “What it’s going to take is coding SOAP interfaces to existing applications and making sure content is in XML. It’s not like bringing in a big ERP system or supply chain management system.”

According to Delphi Group’s survey, companies are not expecting to spend heavily on Web services. When asked how much their organization expects to spend on Web services projects in the next three years, the largest group of respondents (23%) say less than $100,000, while 18% said less than $250,000. Of course, spending plans can vary widely depending on a company’s size and revenues, but the trend shows that Web services won’t gobble up giant pieces of IT budgets.

Finally, the fifth hurdle to implementing Web services is managing relationships with other organizations. Similar to the bigger concern (of changing internal mindsets to embrace Web services), embracing new relationships with outside partners is key to benefiting from Web services.

Time is right for Web services
Hawes says a major reason Web services have moved to the front burner in many IT organizations is the current economic climate – the technology is seen as one answer to the challenge of extracting more business value out of prior IT investments.

“Most early Web services deployments are initiatives to integrate functionality of different applications inside the firewall,” such as linking applications in different geographical locations, or different legacy systems, Hawes says.

He offers a typical implementation example: One process manufacturer is linking a number of its machines that make up a manufacturing line. A lot of this equipment does not communicate with the other equipment on the line. But by using SOAP interfaces and XML data schemes, the different manufacturing pieces can communicate relevant data with the other such as run-time data and quality and quantity metrics.

Hawes adds: “Take that one step further: If the manufacturer wants to, they could make that available to their supply chain partners to help them make decisions” regarding deliveries of materials and parts, producing a more efficient supply chain.

Another factor driving widespread adoption of Web services is that the standards and education of the marketplace is being heavily pushed by major technology vendors including Microsoft, IBM, BEA, Sun Microsystems and others. Web services are not following a traditional path of new technology, where early advocates are often upstart vendors who test the waters before the giants enter the market. Delphi Group points to the fact that major vendors are leading the push for Web services is a sign of its early acceptance – and a sign that it will be rapidly adopted by corporations.

Hawes says that, compared to other emerging technologies that typically follow a cycle that begins with early adopters before migrating to widespread adoption, “that cycle is happening with Web services faster than any technology I’ve seen to date.”