I was surprised by the nod given to Web services by some of our readers back in February. The Quickpoll question “is your organisation using Web services” yielded the answers already deployed (30 per cent), projects under development (19 per cent), under consideration (19 per cent) and no plans to do so (32 per cent).
Yeah, I’ve been told in a few rude e-mails that a self-selecting Quickpoll hardly counts as statistically valid survey practice, and the percentages in this case apply to some 60 votes. But it’s enough to make me think that I was a tad too sceptical, a little like Mark Hall who describes Web services as just “sharper knives in your IT kitchen”.
IT veteran Paul Strassmann sees Web services as heralding a new era in IT and the death of the heavy duty all-embracing architecture as proposed by ERP vendors during the 90s. Big stuff. Strassmann has been in IT since 1961 and is now the outgoing CIO of NASA, so I figure he knows what he’s talking about.
According to Strassmann, systems integration will be accomplished by networks that can make diverse systems interoperate without being forced into any one vendor’s architecture and promise a way to reduce huge development budgets. The catch is that the way IT is managed would need to move away from ownership towards a willingness to purchase most transactions as a service.
Hall counters that Web services are ‘cool’ but basically just “intelligent ASCII”. He points to vendors squabbling over standards, and the view that you can output everything in XML leaves you asking ‘what XML format?’ Me, I can’t help it, but I’m sure we’ll still be hearing about integration hurdles for years to come, and the big enterprise software vendors will still be around.
On the matter of IT futures, it was fun to hear Gartner’s eternal optimist and senior VP Bob Hayward at a breakfast function this week doing his best to get everyone excited about the coming years. Hayward reckons that with the IT investment strike and articles in the Harvard Business Review questioning whether IT matters, and so on, the pendulum has swung way too far into the negative. He believes that we’ve only just scratched the knowledge age’s surface and in the coming years developments in processors, storage and communications will leave behind what we have now by orders of magnitude. Software will also progress, but incrementally by comparison. Hayward said he is “pissed off” about journalists asking about a new era in IT supposedly defined by ICT investment only happening when there’s a return to the business. “Get with the program,” he says, “It’s always been that way my 20 years in the industry.”
“I hear too many people saying ‘IT hasn’t done much for me lately’; I say, ‘Bullshit. OK we’ll turn it off for a couple of days and we’ll see how you go’.” Hayward also pointed out that despite the dotcom crash there’s still some 100 profitable dotcom companies on the Nasdaq and that $US74 billion worth of goods are bought online each year in the US.
Now he’s no crusty sceptic.