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Yankee: Web Services Gaining Momentum

To give their sluggish supply chains a boost, companies are increasingly deploying Web services in applications at the edge of their networks, according to new research from The Yankee Group.

The research firm found that some 70 percent of new IT spending is earmarked for integration technologies at the edge of the enterprise. The news should be encouraging for software vendors stuck in the limbo of a dearth in IT spending for the last few years.

Pegged as a multi-billion-dollar industry by many analysts, Web services and their cousins, service-oriented architectures, are spearheading the race for enterprise application integration in distributed computing environments.

"With the ongoing development of Web services code for workflow, messaging, e-commerce and security standards, enterprises are ready to create service-oriented architectures for software vendors to build next-generation applications on Microsoft and IBM software," The Yankee Group said in a statement.

The research firm credits Microsoft and IBM with helping to drive the adoption of Web services standards. Without those top companies lending their support, businesses would be loathe to back the standards. Without the standards, customers would be reticent to try the technologies.

Standards are important, but Yankee recognizes that core technologies based on them are also responsible for spreading the influence of Web services and SOAs.

To that end, many organizations are realizing the business benefits of defining, recognizing and sharing products and services in a massive global directory, which makes UDDI a hugely popular tool to help drive B2B commerce. Systinet, Novell and SAP are among those that make UDDI products.

Moreover, the Web Services Dynamic Discovery (WS-Discovery) specification bolsters UDDI by helping users of mobile gadgets such as laptops or personal digital assistants connect to the network even if the device or service is not always connected.

Of course, the development and adoption of Web services wouldn't be as effective if users couldn't tie the technology to business processes, which is what the Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS) specification is designed to do.

Though they have ceded the spec to the standards body OASIS, Microsoft, IBM, BEA , Siebel and SAP are all implementing the BPEL into their product lines.

Yankee also said it is unlikely that there will be too much fragmentation in the industry between BPEL purveyors and supporters of the World Wide Web Consortium's WSCI spec. Like BPEL, WSCI was written to orchestrate business processes, but Yankee said support from the top applications makers will win the day for BPEL.

"We are confident Siebel and SAP's support will drive BPEL4WS to displace BPML and WSCI, leaving enterprises secure in the knowledge that their applications will conform to the standard," Yankee said in the statement.

Also, one of the main sticking points that has stalled Web services adoption has been security, or the lack of standards to support it. Yankee claims successful transition of Web services security to the Web Services Interoperability organization is allaying businesses' concerns surrounding message confidentiality, integrity and authentication.

The research firm also has to feel good about the passage of the Web Services Security standard earlier this year by OASIS.

Yankee said specific applications of Web services are becoming more common and popular. For example, instead of a broad Web services application, a company might make or use an application specifically for conducting transactions for an e-commerce site.

Lastly, the firm said early Web services adopters will include manufacturing companies looking to optimize their supply chains while complex industries with huge, unstructured datasets and fragmented processes will be among the last to adopt Web services, "because it simply takes much longer to test and deploy ideas."

Some of these potential late adopters include life sciences and biopharmaceutical sectors.