Web services trials

Web services remain behind firewall . . . . . and probably will stay there for the next year or longer. Or so say vendors and developers who work in the field. Everything from immature standards to security concerns seems to be holding Web services in check, they say. "It's an immature field, and the standards are still evolving," observes James Franklin, director at Extreme Logic. He says only 10 percent to 20 percent of the clients of his 200-person IT consultancy are dipping their toes into Web services, and they're doing so only for internal integration work.

"Most of our customers are not ready for depending on outside Web services," he says, noting that users are unnerved by the fact that new standards "will always crop up," such as the recent announcement of one for Web services management. Keith Franklin (no known relationship to James), president and chief software architect of Empowered Software Solutions, a .Net consultancy claims that while effective security is possible with Web services, people remain skeptical "because it's not part of the specification."

Mercury Interactive has leapt into the Web services tools business. But according to Vincent Rerolle, vice president of business development, the software company has seen virtually all the demand focused on testing tools, which leads him to conclude users aren't deploying these new applications outside their companies because that would require a different set of production and management tools. Part of the problem resides in the issue of responsibility. For example, service-level agreements (SLA) are well defined and managed among current business-partner applications. "But," Rerolle says, "SLAs are still nascent on the Web services side."

If you're ready to experiment with Web services, but all you hear from management is "ROI! ROI! ROI!" Franklin (James, not Keith) argues that .Net is the hands-down winner on cost to deploy, primarily because of Microsoft Corp.'s stronger development tools. Still, he acknowledges that if you already have a Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) environment, switching to .Net is unlikely to deliver meaningful returns on investment. If you want to jump into the .Net vs. J2EE Web services debate, visit www.webservicesarchitect.com/ and join the fray.

That fray going on in Iraq has affected the Franklin boys differently. One (James) attributes the hesitation about corporate IT buying decisions to the lingering uncertainty of war. However, he says, "if the war is quick, there could be a bit of a bounce in business." The other (Keith) says the war with Iraq hasn't changed his software consulting business at all. "I haven't heard a peep from one our clients," he says. "They're not even asking for extra security screening of our on-site staff."

However the war affects IT business, one thing you can bet on is that Linux will emerge victorious. Research from Evans Data Corp. shows that 52 percent of developers now target the open-source operating system to run their software. And Linux will get another boost next week when Austin, Texas-based Metrowerks, a wholly owned subsidiary of Motorola Inc., unveils its Smart Gateway 857 hardware/software development combo for large network systems such as switches and routers. The new development tools will put Linux inside systems that previously depended on proprietary operating systems. Reason? Operating system licensing fees are too steep. The 857's evaluation and developer kits are available now. Expect to see a voice module for voice over IP developers by June.

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