Corporate IT leaders should prepare to hear a lot more about Web services in 2002. The
emerging technology that links internal and external business processes promises to be
on the lips of IT execs and vendors as its value to the enterprise becomes more widely
understood and practical uses are implemented.
Under Web services architecture, software applications are designed to be used by
other software by linking together between or inside enterprises. Major vendors are
rallying to support it, including Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Sun and others.
But before getting drawn in by the hype, one tech research firm is warning IT execs to
be careful as they move forward with implementing Web services in their companies.
“Web services technologies can save millions in integration costs today, but companies
must proceed cautiously,” said Simon Yates, senior analyst at Forrester Research in
Cambridge, Mass., and author of a new report, “The Web Services Payoff.”
Yates says that despite the rapid emergence of Web services, “executives must be
mindful of technology barriers, such as vendors who can’t yet articulate clear
business values as they put a Web services veneer on existing products and the lack of
That said, Forrester advocates that IT organizations embrace the immediate benefits of
Web services. The research firm says Web services are clearly poised to drive
productivity gains, making it easier for companies to collaborate internally and with
business partners, through the interconnection of software systems regardless of what
platform they’re running on.
Forrester offers food for thought for IT execs preparing to dive into Web services,
- Web services will ease collaboration, but executives must watch out for immature
technology and vendor hype.
- Firms should put basic “read-only” Web services that serve partners or meet
internal needs into production now.
- Execs should keep an eye on evolving Web services standards to take advantage of
more advanced capabilities as they emerge.
Few users are “on the same wavelength as their IT suppliers” when it comes to Web
services, Forrester says. Integration is a top priority both for vendors and for IT
execs, but of the business execs Forrester recently interviewed, most were “unaware of
or hesitant about Web services. Despite the common integration interest, most firms
don’t see how the technologies can help in today’s market conditions.”
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Although Web services technology lets companies interconnect software systems more
quickly and cheaply, streamlining business collaboration, Web services
“won’t bring flexibility to 30 years of proprietary systems overnight.” Forrester says
executives should take a practical approach and choose activities that promote
visibility, like inventory alerts, and lay the foundation for more complex
collaboration as technology barriers fall.
“In the past year, new specifications have emerged to standardize basic Web services
that open up broad growth and cost-cutting opportunities,” said Frank E. Gillett,
senior analyst at Forrester and author of a Forrester report, “Start Using Web Services
Now.” “Companies should exploit these standards now to build simple links between
internal apps and their business partners.”
Web services are being widely touted by vendors as the “new solution” for enterprise
application integration. But, says Forrester, until 2004 when the performance of Web
services improves and standards for security, auditing and transactions stabilize,
“traditional EAI technologies will prevail.”
Forrester is looking toward 2006 as the year when standards will have sufficiently
matured enough to give execs the confidence to apply Web services technologies to
complex, transactional business processes and to relationships with “qualified but
previously unknown parties.”