Web services called key to integration

Integration of disparate systems is set to become the killer app for Web services, stressed Iona Technologies PLC CEO Barry Morris, during a keynote presentation at the Web Services Edge conference here on Wednesday.

Following the presentation, Morris said Microsoft Corp. is the only vendor truly embracing Web services and that other companies are attempting to shoehorn in Web services to sell their own technologies.

Morris stressed that Web services can provide the simplified mechanisms for integrating systems that have escaped the industry thus far.

"It's about integration, stupid," Morris exclaimed. "From the very early days of this, what we've been talking about is this thing called Web services integration."

Integration is the "entry point" for deployment of Web services, he said. Business integration and application integration consistently come up in the top three or five issues in surveys about IT concerns, and Web services can address this. Integration can enable tremendous opportunities for the industry, Morris said.

"It's actually a conundrum of our industry," Morris said. "The computer industry deplores a vacuum more than nature does. How can there be this enormous opportunity out there and it's unsolved?"

There has been no obvious winner in the integration space, Morris said. "The answer is that traditional answers to this problem are not working," at least not in anything more than in a limited way, he said. After his presentation, Morris cited EAI as an example of a traditional method, naming vendors such as Tibco Software Inc., webMethods Inc., and Vitria Technology Inc. as purveyors of these wares.

During his presentation, Morris said Web services have had detractors, such as those who say Web services cannot provide quality of service. But some companies are threatened by Web services, according to Morris. "If Web services is going to have an impact on our industry, then some people are going to lose," Morris said.

Following the presentation, Morris would not name vendors that he believes are panning Web services. But he did point fingers at the Java camp.

"If your franchise is a Java application server, you pursue Java everywhere rather than XML everywhere because that's in the interest of your shareholders," Morris said.

During his presentation, Morris said new programming languages will continue to arise and that "eventually Java is going to be old hat." But new computing environments do not hinder deployment of Web services, he said.

Microsoft is the only company truly embracing Web services, Morris said in an interview following his speech, presumably in reference to the rival Java and Microsoft .Net development camps. Other vendors are trying to make Web services "bolt on to what they already have," said Morris.

Iona on its Web site is described as provider of Web integration services. The site also lists the Iona Orbix E2A Application Server Platform, J2EE Technology Edition -- a Java application server with integrated Web services support -- as one of the company's products.

Following Morris' speech, attendee Paul Extance, research and development manager at Spirent, an aircraft maintenance and repair software vendor in La Jolla, Calif., said he believes Morris's notion that Web services can be a panacea for integration, if everyone adopts it.

However, some integration technologies need more sophistication than what is afforded in Web services, Extance said.

"SOAP doesn't support distributed transactions," for example, Extance said.

"The thing that makes [ Web services] simple is you take out some of the [complexity]," Extance said. CORBA has addressed some of these complex issues but it was not widely adopted probably because it was deemed too complex, said Extance.

Morris in his presentation stressed basic concepts of Web services, such as use of WSDL, UDDI registry services, SOAP, and XML processes.

With Web services, everyone will become a programmer of sorts, and enterprises need not rely only on "black belt programmers" for integration, Morris said.

"More and more, it's going to be systems that are just inherently able to talk to each other," said Morris.

"Ideally, what we're going to see with this is in this component-oriented way is everyone becomes a programmer," Morris said.

Web services still need a reference architecture detailing elements such as message exchange and function calls, security, and transactional conversations and activities, said Morris.

Web services, he said, present a standards-based solution to integration problems.

"The truth is, you can think of Web services as the next layer of networking protocols," said Morris.

"The great thing about Web services is ... it's simple, it's pragmatic, it works," he said.

"Every single technology vendor in the industry supports this," said Morris.

"What [ Web services] is about is openness, it's evolution, it's about control of a pace of development," said Morris.

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