Web services in the mainstream: IBM

Web services may have reached mainstream adoption in Australian IT, but organisations that have ‘tacked’ Web services onto their infrastructure will probably have to redesign their architecture in the next five years.

That’s the view of Ed Tuggle, senior software engineer in IBM’s jStart Emerging Technologies group. Part of a 12- member team, Tuggle travels the world advising developers and customers on facilitating new-technology projects. Responsible for the Asia-Pacific region, Tuggle has overseen some of Australia’s biggest Web services projects.

Tuggle recently spoke at a Web services conference in Sydney that he said showed the technology was “well into the mainstream in Australia”.

“About half of the 50 or 60 people that were there said they had Web services. Now that’s a lot more than [similar] conferences I went to last year. Over the last few years I’d be lucky to have a few [users of Web services],” he said.

“Percentage wise, the number of people building Web services here is pretty close to the US.”

JStart is a division of IBM that focuses on helping customers use emerging software technologies. It began working with customers on Web services three years ago.

Tuggle expects that by the end of 2003 the group will no longer oversee new Web services projects, and will move onto facilitating newer technologies.

Michael Barnes, vice president of Meta Group, said Tuggle’s claim on Web services adoption was accurate.

“It does depend on how you’re defining Web services adoption though. XML-based technologies have been widely adopted. Things on top of that, like WSDL, SOAP, are just past the early adopters.”

Accordingly, some of these Web services implementations were only simple, first generation applications aimed at immediate problems, Tuggle said. To create second- and third-generation applications, IT workers have to create service-oriented architectures, he said.

“In a lot of cases, people don’t think about a global architecture. They just build apps, and if they tie together, well that’s great.

“Over the next five years…people will eventually need to go back and fix this architecture,” Tuggle said.

“People [using Web services] are going to need to augment what’s there,” said Meta Group’s Barnes. “Things like process automation are yet to be formalised,” he said.

Some of the most common Web services implementations are first-generation, those that are “tacked on the end” of existing IT infrastructure, according to Tuggle. Second-generation implementations are designed with Web services from the outset, he said. Third-generation applications, however, develop by building a service-oriented architecture, then choosing the technology to implement it.

Tuggle said service-oriented architectures work on the premise that most integration projects address single systems, not the business services. The number of platforms that usually exist in business systems means no single integration solution will bring them (and future ones) all together. However, by defining interfaces and their business functions (services), IT managers can plan application frameworks and maximise the reuse of applications.

In time, some businesses may be forced to change their architecture accordingly if they wish to continue trading with larger business partners, Tuggle said.

“Implementing service-oriented architectures are a fundamental step to third-generation computing,” Barnes said. He said Meta Group believes Web services are a key part of the third wave of computing. The initial wave was mainframe computing, the second was software centric, and the third is network centric, he said.

“Service oriented architectures design and define a system with modular pieces. These pieces are defined by business services, and you use Web services to link them. The end result is improving business agility.”

Tuggle singled out the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), saying it has “world leading third-generation apps”. ABS clients use Microsoft .Net applications along with IBM’s Lotus software.

The ABS collects and distributes statistical data from and to a wide range of sources. As part of designing its service-oriented architecture, the ABS identified opportunities for automating the provision and collection of data.

“Then it picked the technology to implement it,” said Tuggle. “The ABS went back and fixed the root problem and is now developing on an architecture that will take it far into the future.

“An Australian ought to care about that because, it’s not a new concept, but here’s someone actually doing it.

“That means it has framework components it can reuse, ABS will write fewer applications that will become obsolete, will be able to bring new applications online faster, and can directly connect to more users.”

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