Iona hails Web services reality

Iona Technologies PLC on Tuesday announced its reorganization around Web services integration, offering one of the strongest signs that the technology is more reality than industry hype.

A string of partners and customers joined the Dublin, Ireland-based vendor here as company CEO Barry Morris emphasized that not only are standards-based, heterogeneous Web services technologies a reality, they represent a fundamental shift in the IT industry.

"Web services is the equivalent of TCP/IP in that context," he said of the ability of Web services to break down traditional vendor power bases around proprietary solutions.

As previously reported, Iona has realigned its products around two platforms: Web services integration and application servers.

To that end, the company Tuesday announced Orbix E2A (End To Anywhere), and claimed it is the first Web services integration platform not to treat Web services like an additional feature. The standards-based product includes business-to-business, enterprise integration, and application development functionality, according to Iona executives.

Keen to push that open standards message were Iona's partners and customers at the event, including representatives from Nordstrom.com, Zurich Insurance, BroadVision, HotJobs.com, PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, IT integrator Science Applications International (SAIC), Gartner, and Microsoft.

Nordstrom.com CTO Paul Onnen said the online sales outlet of the retailer is realizing tangible benefits from using Iona's Web services technology.

"It allows us to only show the products that are actually available for sale," he said. Onnen explained that Orbix enabled the company to provide a single interface to different divisions inside the company responsible for elements of the Web site's operations.

In addition, the company no longer relies on outside help from systems integrators for enterprise application integration. The result is some of Nordstrom.com's 75 IT staff have been redeployed to other areas of the company, and IT staffing has not grown despite more than 300 percent growth in online sales since last year, he said.

One of the integrators impacted by the Web services business model is KPMG. But W. David Sanders, KPMG's vice president, said he is not worried by the prospect that Web services could cause customers to no longer need the company's integration services.

"I don't have a problem with the concept because there are plenty of other customers out there who are not where Nordstrom.com is," he said.

Sanders said KPMG would welcome its customers achieving integration independence because that would give them a success story to market. "There's always going to be an opportunity in the company someplace else [for other work]," he said.

Meanwhile, Charles Fitzgerald, Microsoft's general manager of .Net Platform Strategy, joined the lineup of speakers here today via satellite hookup to offer Microsoft's vote of confidence in Iona's position.

"We think of Web services as the way you build applications for the 21st century," he said.

He also tried to assert a position that Microsoft is now an open company, focused on standards. "I don't want to refer to that old industry practice that everyone build their own industry silos," he said.

Fitzgerald's comments sparked some discussion among Iona partners after the presentation. One person who submitted a question via e-mail after watching a Web cast of the event asked if Microsoft and Sun, as key vendors in the Web services space, were free of their "proprietary impulses" and what impact this would have on Iona.

"Part of Iona's proposition is an open, independent platform," Iona's Morris answered. "We won't let anyone take advantage of our technologies."

KPMG's Sanders reiterated comments made by many attendees at the launch that "Microsoft still does not understand the enterprise." "Just because they redeployed their sales force doesn't mean they understand the enterprise," he said.

He did say that Microsoft is moving in the right direction toward becoming an open standards company. "Iona could actually pull Microsoft into the enterprise," Sanders said. The only challenge that remains for Iona itself is marketing its Web services platform, he said.

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