EAI vendors embracing Web services

Although most users aren't yet adopting Web services, enterprise application integration (EAI) vendors are starting to build support for the technology into their software in an effort to reduce the complexity of integration projects.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tibco Software Inc. this week announced an EAI tool that supports Simple Object Access Protocol messaging and the Web Services Description Language, plus technologies such as Java and XML. Tibco is aiming the new package at users who want a simplified way to tie different systems together.

Tibco's rollout followed a similar move two weeks ago by webMethods Inc. in Fairfax, Va., and announcements earlier in the fall by Vitria Technology Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif., and SeeBeyond Inc. in Redwood Shores, Calif. The new capabilities let IT departments use Web services technology instead of EAI adapters that have been developed for individual applications.

Such moves are supposed to simplify the notoriously complex task of doing EAI implementations, and some early users are starting to turn to Web services as part of integration projects.

Eric Austvold, an analyst at AMR Research Inc. in Boston, said the relatively simple connectivity of Web services is a natural fit for EAI uses. "But the vendors are out ahead of the users right now," he said. "This is a baby who's just crawling."

In addition, software vendors have yet to agree on operational standards for Web services, Austvold said. Java 2 Enterprise Edition, which lies at the heart of most application servers, also hasn't been tied to Web services, he said.

Tyler McDaniel, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Mass., said Web services should eventually prove to be a more cost-effective way to integrate incompatible systems. "The best part about it is it's not technology that disrupts the way a company does its work," he said.

Like Austvold, though, McDaniel recommended a cautious approach at first.

"You probably don't want to try this on your more mission-critical projects until the market has time to mature," he said.

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