WebMethods lets users dip toes into Web services

In an attempt to seed the market for Web services, webMethods Inc. on Thursday served up a free, 60-day evaluation version of its application integration platform.

Officials at the Fairfax, Va.-based company said the software trial is aimed at letting users dip their toes into the Web services waters, providing them the opportunity to see how a services-based approach simplifies EAI.

"There has been a level of confusion around Web services and whether they are easy to build on this platform or that," said Pat Condon, senior manager of strategic planning at webMethods. "Our customers wanted us to show them first, so we decided to open the gates."

The move is not entirely altruistic, of course. To get a taste of Web services, users also will be downloading webMethods integration server, along with application adapters of their choice. After the 60-day trial, users will be offered a chance to continue with the platform starting at US$50,000 per CPU, according to Condon.

"There's no getting around the fact that you are getting this big heavy product with special tools [for Web services]," said Frank Gillett, integration analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "This is for people interested in EAI who want to toe-dip in Web services. It's not for developers wanting to build Web services."

Indeed, the adapters included with the offering will allow users to Web services-enable their packaged applications, Condon said, because "customers don't just want to build Web services, but want to use them to connect to existing apps."

In addition to the integration server and adapters, the evaluation model also includes a graphical environment for creating, integrating, testing, and deploying Web services that will not require manual coding. The solution will also feature tutorials and online support for Web services development and integration.

Web services capabilities have been available in webMethods integration platform since last October, and have been upgraded as the various standards have crystallized over the months, Condon said.

The embrace of Web services as an integration strategy has become a competitive necessity for webMethods and other traditional EAI vendors such as Tibco Systems Inc., Vitria Techology Inc., SeeBeyond Technology Corp., Iona Technologies PLC, and a raft of other players. As Web services simplifies integration through standard interfaces and loosely coupled components, the currently high-ticket application integration market could become more commoditized, according to industry observers.

For now, however, EAI companies such as webMethods contend that their integration platforms augment Web services by providing all the elements that current standards lack, such as security, transactionality and scalability, business process management, and workflow capabilities.

"All the EAI guys are feeling the pinch [of Web services]," Gillett said.

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