Sticky Strands of Web Services Uncertainty

Different strokes

Most research studies analyzing Web services predict major adoption from year to year. Evans said the prevalence of Web services-oriented applications is expected to explode in the next year, blossoming from a current adoption figure of 57 percent for developers to 87 percent next year. Forty-three percent of developers surveyed are either now deploying or expect to deploy a Web services application in the next half year, with the majority of them geared for business processes.

“Six months ago, most of the Web services development was happening in departments within a company,” noted Evans Data analyst Esther Schindler. “Now, we see the experimentation period is coming to an end, and Web services is being adopted by whole enterprises.

Jupiter Research reported different findings in their new Web services study. But it also parsed a different segment of the IT population. While Evans focused on developers, Jupiter surveyed executives, noting that 82 percent of IT executives say that they have deployed Web services.

In its report entitled “Web Services: Gauging the Impact on Business Alignment with IT,” Jupiter said that Web services technology will not become mature for some three to five years, but that businesses are tinkering with it. Interestingly, while Evans found that security was a concern among developers, Jupiter said executives “have chosen to ignore security concerns and the relative immaturity of the technology.”

To that end, Jupiter cautioned that Web services have the potential to strain the relationship between business executives and IT departments. In stark contradiction to the rosy notion that Web services will free business executives from their dependency on IT organizations, Jupiter Research envisions a different, problematic scenario.

“Ironically, Web services technology could shift IT decisions and power to central IT groups and away from technology groups aligned with internal business units,” said David Schatsky, Vice President and Research Director at Jupiter Research. “This could create friction between business-unit aligned IT groups accustomed to developing and deploying applications without central IT oversight.”

Like most research firms, Jupiter Research concurs that Web services will become pervasive over time, permeating all levels of an enterprise’s software stack, from infrastructure and tools to enterprise and desktop applications. However, contrary to most Web services study findings, the firm said they will provide little in the way of distinct revenue streams to most vendors with the exception of a few niche providers.

IDC is also reticent to trumpet the riches Web services can conjer — for fiscal reasons.

“Organizations may believe that there is strong value in the Web services architecture, but justifying resources for any new technology in such a tight economy has been a challenge,” said Sandra Rogers, Program Manager for Web Services Software at IDC. “Users are proceeding with caution, which could be good news for both users and vendors in the long run, setting the stage for a more sustained and rational evolutionary growth curve for this market.”

Can I get some security here?

But before we can even get to the points about how many are deploying Web services, how much will be spent to get them, and who is choosing what platform, there remain some prickly thorns in the side of the IT industry.

What’s hampering the embrace of massive Web services development? A few things, chief among them are concerns about security, or, perhaps more apropos, the lack thereof. Evans noted that 24 percent of respondents are concerned about security, 21 percent are leery of vague Web services standards. Of course, the issues of security and standards are intertwined. Lastly, the technical issue of how to architect and integrate services oriented application architectures was troubling 16 percent of developers surveyed.

Sun’s Harrah agreed with the findings that security is the biggest concern among Web services developers.

“We’ve been making this point since the whole issue of Web services came up, since it was hyped out of proportion a year ago,” Harrah said. “The press hyped it and companies hyped it, but they neglected to point out that there was no security framework in place. Applications could communicate with each other, but sending vital info across XML, which is a platform-neutral data format, is insecure. People are doing Web services with Java or other platforms behind the scenes.”

Microsoft’s Hay agreed that security standards are crucial.

“It’s not that there is no security for Web services,” Hay said. “There are certainly security mechanisms, but if we don’t have a standard it makes it difficult to work with multiple partners. That is why we are Working diligently with IBM and others to drive industry standards.

Indeed, ZapThink sees great opportunity here, estimating that the XML and Web Services security market will hit $4.4 billion by 2006.

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