IBM exec says Web services are catching on

Web services are catching on, but there is still work to be done, said IBM Corp.'s Rod Smith, vice president of emerging technologies, in a keynote address here at the InfoWorld Next-Generation Web Services conference on Thursday.

Armonk, New York-based IBM has been working on Web services for longer than the concept has been called Web services and, in fact, has been working on XML (Extensible Markup Language) messaging for as long as three years, Smith said.

"Web services is on course, it looks like it has all the attributes," Smith said.

The real value of Web services, he said, is when you get your systems to work together, whether they come from Oracle Corp., IBM, Microsoft Corp., or any other vendor.

Smith continued that companies should look toward Web services not just for integration purposes, but for faster building of relationships with customers and partners, as well as faster time to market of products and services.

"Web services has to be about how we're going to build this infrastructure that is interoperable," he said.

Smith said IBM has seen even more interest in Web services than it expected.

"The pieces are in place that are showing value to customers," he said.

To demonstrate the momentum behind Web services, Smith brought representatives from Japanese telecom company NTT DoCoMo and E2Open, a collaboration network for the electronics industry that handles external integration between several companies. NTT DoCoMo joined UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration) and is now hosting a public and private UDDI directories.

E2Open, of which IBM is one of the founding members, is using Web services to help member companies integrate with each other, according to Lorenzo Martinelli, vice president of marketing and strategy at Belmont, Calif.-based E2Open.

Martinelli said that Web services has enabled E2Open to achieve 70 percent cost savings when it comes to enabling partners and makes integration 50 percent faster than traditional point-to-point deployments.

"What we're trying to do, we couldn't do without Web services," Martinelli said, adding that it would have been too cost-prohibitive otherwise.

IBM's Smith closed by saying that there are still some unresolved issues for the vendors driving Web services to handle, particularly workflow; tweaking the utility model; work on some of the standards, such as WSDL (Web Services Description Language); and provisioning.

"This idea of collaboration is going to be big area we want to work on," Smith said.

He continued that moving forward the industry will start to see more Web services applications.

Smith left the audience with three questions: What happens if integration costs went to zero? What happens if IT dissolves into the fabric of a company? And what happens if integration occurs at deployment time, connection time, or business contract time, and not at development time?

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