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webMethods, HP Author Web Services Spec

Sure, Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. garner the most attention for Web services theses days, but they aren't the only players in that field. webMethods, Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. proved this Thursday when they unveiled a business management interface based on XML, SOAP and HTTP.

The Open Management Interface (OMI) Specification Version 1.0. was created by Fairfax, Va.'s webMethods and Palo Alto, Calif.'s HP to allow customers to use systems management tools to manage and monitor Web services for their businesses. Basically, IT businesses can now give the infrastructure offerings they offer a jolt by bundling business processes and Web services into Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) with customers, vendors and suppliers.

How does this work on a practical level? For example, webMethods and HP said that if a purchase order is delayed or cancelled, a company can determine whether or not a system error is at fault, or if it is a breakdown in the business process itself. The firms believe that the combination of webMetods' integration platform with HP's OpenView software management infrastructure will help companies fix mistakes and run their businesses more efficiently. This, in short, is the root of the most rudimentary Web services processes.

Patty Azzarello, vice president and general manager, HP OpenView Business Unit, pointed out that the agreement was aimed for at businesses such as service providers, who need to make sure their service-level agreements are properly met. For instance, in the event of a botched order due to computer error, an e-commerce firm could benefit from the proper failure identification system to both diagnose he problem, and take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"To remain competitive, today's enterprise and service provider businesses need to manage integration systems and business processes as part of managing their complete infrastructure environment," Azzarello said.

While the HP executive pointed out competition among service providers -- a well-established drama in any business -- competition among Web services providers is also heating up, with Microsoft and Sun leading the battle. Still, the sector is nascent enough to where standards, such as HP's and webMethods' new OMI spec, are still being crafted.

It would seem the collaboration by HP and webMethods makes sense. Market research firm IDC said Web services are playing an increasingly important role in integration initiatives, and predicts the total software, services and hardware opportunity derived from Web services will balloon from 1.6 billion in 2004 to $34 billion by 2007.

Estimates like these are not lost on major tech firms, or any serious software players, really. IBM, Sun and Oracle voiced the push for the industry-wide implementation of Web services at a Software Information Industry Association's (SIIA) event this past weekend.

The OMI spec also means the OpenView software now manages the webMethods integration platform as it does other critical business technologies, such as networks, systems, storage, applications and databases.

webMethods and HP plan to deliver OMI-based versions of their products this summer.