Experts wrangle with Web services barriers

Although the adoption of Web services is still in its infancy, representatives from leading IT vendors today at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) discussed the technical challenges that increased distributed computing will pose.

Problems like a lack of existing best practices for deploying Web services, how to distribute and balance compute cycles across a complex Web service network, and changing company business models to better accommodate a Web service infrastructure were all mentioned as challenges facing the evolution of Web services.

Panel member Eric Schmidt, the technical evangelist for Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., said the exploding amount of Web-based messaging expected by the growth of Web services means figuring out how to build hardware networks equipped to handle the increased traffic.

"When you think about the CPU cycle time that will be required for Web services, what's the best [hardware] architecture to go after? What should we be asking vendors to build to deliver this degree of messaging?" asked Schmidt.

Keith Yedlin, a senior architect for Intel Corp.'s computer modeling division in Santa Clara, Calif., agreed that Web services will put a strain on hardware as they continue to grow.

"The XML routing and parsing alone will add a huge additional requirement for MIPS [million instructions per second] -- an old measure of a computer's speed and power -- and this could be a potential barrier to the adoption of Web services if you have to add all this new hardware," he said.

Recognizing that there will be an increased amount of data traffic resulting from multiple messaging systems running Web services, Ben Renard, a principal technologist for BEA Systems Inc., in San Jose, Calif., recommended that companies implement Web services first in-house, where testing can be done more easily and more securely.

"Within the enterprise is the right test bed for Web services," said Renard.

Balancing the roles of hardware and software in a Web service environment is also an issue facing the implementation of Web services.

Currently, early adopter companies who have already implemented some form of Web service are "working atop existing transaction and security models," said Microsoft's Schmidt. Schmidt sees a new breed of hardware arriving designed to handle the increased workload of Web services, but he doesn't rule out the role of software in being able to assisting in handling the added messaging traffic.

"The jury is still out," Schmidt said. "Can we build better processes in software or will we have to go back to the hardware?"

Michael Conner, a distinguished engineer and CTO for Web services with IBM Corp., in Austin, Texas, said one of the biggest barriers facing the implementation of Web services are businesses themselves.

"The biggest barrier to Web services is the businesses," he said. "To change your supply-chain management to a Web service structure you need to change you infrastructure somewhat," he said as an example. "And right now we don't have business models that support [electronic] relationships. We don't do business that way today. We need to change our business models to support more dynamic business models, and that will take the longest time," said Conner.

Conner agreed that testing Web services as an in-house system is the best way for companies to begin deploying Web services, because another problem facing expanding Web services is still interoperability with third-party companies.

But every panelist agreed that now was the time to start deploying Web services, in any form, because all the tools needed to do so already exit today.

"This is the future of distributed computing, and you should get involved as soon as possible," said Schmidt.

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