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Developers are gearing up for Web services and battening down the security hatches, according to the results of a survey released by Evans Data Corp. on Wednesday.

However they are defined, Web services are the new must-have technology, said Jay Dixit, an analyst at Evans Data and author of the study. Dixit defined Web services as "Web-based applications that can interact with other Web-based applications using XML (Extensible Markup Language)-based standards."

These standards include SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), ebXML, (Electronic Business XML), UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration), and WSDL (Web Service Description Language). SOAP and the Java programming language are the most popular standards being used to develop Web services, Dixon said, with WSDL and UDDI bringing up the rear.

More than 50 percent of the survey respondents expect to develop XML Web services within the next six months, and 40 percent are currently working on some form of the technology. Within two years, 78 percent plan to have XML Web services up and running at their companies, while almost 60 percent said at least some of their applications incorporate Web services right now.

While some developers might not be jumping headlong into Web services, most are preparing for its emergence. More than 82 percent of survey respondents plan to develop XML Web services interfaces in a portion of their current Web applications, with 19 percent planning to use XML in all of their forthcoming applications.

The highest percentage of developers currently implementing Web services applications, 47 percent, are working on outsourcing projects for outside clients. The second-highest percentage of current development projects, 44.5 percent, are geared toward company-wide internal applications. A similar number, 41.5 percent, are working on commercial applications for sale to the outside world, meaning some developers are working on several types of applications at once.

Microsoft Corp.'s Visual.Studio .Net is the most popular toolkit in use by developers working on Web services, according to the study, with 64 percent of developers preferring it over rival toolkits from Sun Microsystems Inc., IBM Corp., Oracle Corp., and BEA Systems Inc., among others.

Security was also a major topic of the survey, with 20 percent of survey respondents reporting some type of security breach at their companies last year. Developers surveyed felt that Sun's Solaris operating system was the development platform with the best security features built in, although developers chose the "don't know/something else" selection more than any other choice of secure operating systems.

Fifty-eight percent of developers said the free Apache Web server was the most secure Web server in existence, with 19 percent feeling the same way about Microsoft's IIS (Internet Information Services).

Evans Data received responses from 813 developers in the U.S. and Canada for their survey.