We've entered the "practical phase" of Web services, says Halsey Minor, CEO of Grand Central in a recent interview with Business Week. "The first phase was a bunch of people designing a whole bunch of standards -- primarily those were a bunch of computer scientists. Now people are getting practical about what a Web service can and cannot solve....You're going to see some components of the standards get completely forgotten, and you're going to see some proprietary things creep in. But by and large you're going to see the technologies around Web services solve some real problems this year."
Grand Central, unsurprisingly, is judged to be in the center of the action. "The number one problem companies have -- and it doesn't matter if they're medium or large, all of them suffer from the same problems: They cannot get the systems integrated that they've purchased," he argues. "As a simple example, it's very difficult for them when a salesperson sells something to get that sale recorded in the financial system. What we do is provide a very low-cost, low-risk way for companies to interconnect these systems without having to buy any hardware or software."
Minor explains that his company turned the Internet into "an integration platform, so any application can talk to any application without requiring the complexity of hardware and software. Most importantly, what drives our business right now is our lack of complexity, and one of the great advantages of our model is we take away a significant amount of the risk. If you do a big project and you integrate a bunch of things, instead of buying $2 million worth of software and see if it works, you just simply turn on Grand Central, and you start paying as you start driving traffic. We're like the phone network. The more you use, the more you pay."
With a model that encourages customers to bring in other customers, Minor intends to have 20,000 paying organizations linked to the network in 2005.