Web services enticing but somewhat confusing to IT pros

Network executives are having problems distinguishing the differences between Web services vendors and the products they offer, but a majority of IT professionals are starting to deploy or test the technology, according to a recent survey.

Hurwitz Group Inc. found in its Web Services Primary Research Opportunity Study, in which it polled 300 IT professionals, that 45 percent of companies are implementing Web services, while another 36 percent are testing the technology. Those respondents also said they expect to see measurable improvements over the next 6 to 12 months in their computing environments based on their investments in Web services.

The results also show that 47 percent are using Web services for internal integration projects and 25 percent for external integration projects.

The survey also found that many network executives are willing to buy best-of-breed products as opposed to purchasing the software from their traditional vendors. Only 8 percent said they would confine their purchasing to the vendors they currently do business with, and 14 percent said they would buy a turnkey Web services platform from a single vendor.

"It is pretty interesting how companies are willing to go with best-of-breed tools," says Tyler McDaniel, director of software strategies for Hurwitz. "During economic downturns, enterprises rely on stable, big vendors, but in this case they are going with best-of-breed vendors." McDaniel says that speaks well of products from vendors such as BEA Systems Inc., Cape Clear Software Inc., Borland Software Corp., Infravio Inc. and Systinet Corp.

The survey also revealed that security was the No. 1 inhibitor to Web services adoption. "The adoption of Web services development tools is quicker than we thought," says McDaniel. But he says that as applications are developed network executives quickly realize that they are missing mechanisms and protocols to handle security, reliability and quality of service. Respondents also cited quality assurance tools, and performance and system management software as adoption inhibitors.

The biggest drivers for adoption were the ability to use IT resources more effectively and to better integrate their company's business processes.

In terms of platform, the survey found that Microsoft Corp.'s .Net and Java are running neck and neck. The results show IBM Corp. is the dominant vendor in the Java space, but that Oracle Corp. has a strong presence with its 9i database and application server.

The survey also revealed that 59 percent of respondents are purchasing their Web services software directly from vendors.

"The channel is being left out," McDaniel says. "It is incumbent on systems integrators to incorporate these Web services into their business services."

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