Proceed With Caution When Embracing Web Services

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

security standards.”

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.”