Is Web services pure hype peddled by software vendors desperate to create new revenue streams or is the technology quietly yielding returns to Australian businesses?
This debate has been ongoing since the concept of Web services was first bandied around four years ago. But if findings from a recent gathering of IT professionals are anything to go by, it's obvious that some companies are hacking through the hype and putting Web services to work.
Participants at the inaugural ZDNet Australia Web Services Roundtable held in Sydney recently resoundingly agreed that the technology has been part of the IT scene for over a year but its low profile was mainly due to competitive reasons.
"To us, Web services is an evolution of the technology used to communicate with our clients and suppliers," Richard Ang, CIO for Web portal nineMSN, said. NineMSN is a joint venture between Microsoft and Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, one of Australia's leading media companies.
A Web service is a software application available over a network -- usually the Internet -- that uses a standardised Extensible Markup Language, or XML, messaging system and is not tied to any one operating system or programming language. At the heart of the Web services application
environment war lies two camps vying for domination -- Sun Microsytems with J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and Microsoft's .NET.
Ang said implementing Web services on the .NET framework was a natural progression because the Internet is the backbone of nineMSN's business.
He recalled how content partners used to FTP (file transfer protocol) files to nineMSN, which would in turn spend time processing the information before uploading to the Web site.
"Nowadays, the content is in XML and all we need to do is to 'call' or initiate a Web service to complete the file transfer process," Ang said.
For Tom Radovanic, general manager at diversified finance and investment group Elderslie Finance, the decision to implement Web services was a no-brainer.
"We were committed to a Web services approach even before XML," Radovanic said. J2EE is the weapon of choice for Elderslie, which also offers customised software applications to other financial institutions -- including the ANZ Bank and the New York Stock Exchange -- as part of its offerings.
"Web services has enabled our business to grow very quickly," he added.
On how to determine return on investment for Web services projects, the Roundtable participants said such statistics were difficult to determine because of its "continuous evolutionary" nature. They agreed that Web services was a "natural move" for IT departments looking to make sense of disparate
"There no end date to implementing Web services. Honestly, I wouldn't know where to start if I was asked to do an ROI study on Web services," said Brian Pittorino, acting CIO, Macquarie Corporate Telecommunications.
If justifying funding for Web services remains a challenge, IT departments should better explain to management how the technology could be used as a competitive advantage, the participants said.
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Source: CNET News.com