Web services uptake is 'encouraging'

A survey of early adopters has found that Web services is taking off, despite concerns about security and standards

Web services, the process of moving business systems to a loosely coupled architecture based on technologies such as XML, is taking off steadily with many organisations making strides towards adopting the new technology, according to a new study by consultancy firm CBDI. However, the first adoptions are mostly internal to those organisations, rather than between companies. "Most large organisations are recognising that a service-oriented architecture is a thing that will deliver real benefit," said David Sprott, chief executive and principal analyst at CBDI, presenting the results of the survey. However, in the current downturn, said Sprott, companies are demanding real returns from every project, rather than leaping into it feet-first: "People are using the technology more sensibly than any other new technology I have seen in 40 years." The main motivation seems to be making IT more flexible and less tied to particular platforms. Internal Web services projects link applications such as Siebel and Oracle, perhaps creating a generic service that can be used by other applications. Complexity is the number one problem faced by IT managers, at least partly because of the way money was spent on previous technology fads. The survey was carried out on 47 organisations CBDI knew to be early adopters of Web services. Nearly three-quarters of them had completed their first project and started several others, while 40 percent had already completed several projects (some as many as ten). Only 3 percent left it at one Web services project, suggesting that the practical results from that first project must have been encouraging in almost every case. There are still issues which present barriers to users picking up Web services, said Sprott: security; the immaturity of standards; and the immaturity of the available platforms. Security is made more complex by the way Web services link autonomous objects. In the standards area, Sprott points to the divergence coming over the orchestration of Web services, where Microsoft's BPEL language is being developed separately from the W3C's WSCI language. Meanwhile, IT managers fear that the immaturity of the technology will result, ironically, in the same problems they are trying to avoid -- being locked into one vendor's solutions. "The vendors' view is self-serving," said Sprott. "They tend to start with the technology. There are lots and lots of technology-based products, but we are in the very early stages of the market." However, users are being careful to avoid getting locked in. "Users are pacing themselves," said Sprott. "They use Web services when it makes business and technical sense."

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