Growing demand for Web services became evident at the XML Web services One Conference & Expo in San Jose this week as attendees analyzed the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Despite broad industry opinion that Web services cannot be classified as a distinct market, a Silverstream official here cited research from IDC that anticipates the Web services market will catapult from US$1.6 billion in 2004 to $34 billion by 2007.
However, many of the 1,100 attendees at the conference still were in an investigative phase of Web services. One such attendee, Bjarne Hansen, senior systems analyst with KMD, a software development house in Copenhagen, said his company plans to fit mainframe applications with Web interfaces, using SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and XML messaging and utilizing Microsoft .Net technologies. The company provides data services for the public sector.
"What we want to do is provide our customers, who are the local authorities, with Web screens," Hansen said.
Web services, the joining of data and applications across the Internet, holds promises of streamlined business process integration, interoperability, development cost savings, and quicker time to market, said keynote speaker Rod Smith, distinguished engineer and vice president of emerging technology at IBM Corp., on Wednesday.
Smith, however, noted that Web services technology is still in its infancy. "Right now, we're in the early stage. Two years is not a long period of time," Smith said.
Along these lines, attendees at a Web services discussion panel held just prior to the keynote raised a variety of questions about the progress of Web services.
Attendee Yoshi Noguchi, president and CEO of management consulting firm InterBusiness, in Irvine, Calif., wanted to know if major companies themselves have "started dancing" on Web services and implemented these services internally. Technologies such as CORBA have had praises heaped on them similar to what Web services is now getting, Yoguchi said.
In reponse, panelist Norbert Mikula, director of Web services technology at Intel, said that Intel is using Web services technologies, including RosettaNet, XML, and SOAP, internally.
Another attendee, Jordan Berkley, manager of e-business at Majiq in Redmond, Wash., said that Web services appear to be easier to deal with than older integration technologies.
"My perception is Web services is easier. It's expensive to acquire humans who do CORBA and DCOM and smile while they do it," Berkley said.
IBM's Smith stressed both the promises of Web services and where they need improvement.
"The big [observation] that we've seen around Web services is that innovation is happening very fast. We've got to make sure that this can be integrated very quickly," Smith said.
There are issues to be addressed such as security, interoperability, transaction processing, workflow, provisioning, and user experiences, Smith said. Standards bodies such as WS-I (Web Services Interoperability) and vendors are working on various efforts in these regards, Smith said. IBM, Microsoft and Verisign, for example, have done work to build security for Web services based on SOAP and digital certificates, he said.
"Web service interoperability and Web services security are probably going to take a lot of our time," Smith said.
Having multiple implementations of Web services from vendors such as IBM, BEA, and Microsoft also presents obstacles, he said. "If this stuff doesn't interoperate, it's not much use," Smith said.
Success stories, however, have included companies with both dramatic cost savings and reductions in time to market, said Smith. "We're seeing cost savings of 25, 35, and 45 percent, and dramatic time to market drops too," said Smith.
He cited Bekins, a transportation services company, as having deployed a Web services application to match customers with heavy equipment available. Revenues grew by $75 million and costs were cut, Smith said.
SilverStream's Noel Clarke, a senior e-business strategist, during his Thursday presentation emphasized the Internet-friendliness and ease of use of Web services. But speaker J.P. Morgenthal, a technology consultant, speaking on Wednesday's panel stressed that Web services can be difficult to deploy and maintain.
"If you've never hand-coded a WSDL [Web Services Description Language] document, you can't look at Web services and say it's simple," Morgenthal said.
Web services, Smith said, represents a "dynamic business model" approach rather than one that is technology-centric. "From my standpoint, we're moving away from a technology-centric view of the world. We're moving toward a more business-centric view of the world. I think that business content is key."