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RealTime IT News

Management May Be Next Battleground for Web Services

As companies push past the barriers that security concerns have placed before Web services adoption, XML and Web services research firm ZapThink predicts Web services management technology will be the next roadblock -- and the next opportunity -- for companies competing in the Web services arena.

"Web services management solutions bridge the gap between Web services and the underlying technology that they run on," said Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink and author of the report Service-Oriented Management: How Web Services Management is the Key to the Service-Oriented Architecture.

"One of the key things that the Web services management solutions offer is service-oriented management," Bloomberg told internetnews.com Tuesday.

Web services management applications provide software that helps companies manage the systems and applications that underlie their Web services implementations, including system management, lifecycle management, business management, security management and service-oriented architecture enablement. Bloomberg said the latter is the key to the technology, because it will allow companies to take their fine-grained, "atomic" Web services and other data sources and encapsulate and compose them as coarse-grained business services.

"The software functionality is exposed as services, but they're loosely-coupled, which means you don't have to control the service to access the service," Bloomberg said.

To understand the difference between fine-grained and coarse-grained services, it helps to look at the example of ordering a product over the phone as opposed to ordering through a mail-order catalog. Bloomberg said ordering over a phone is analogous to a fine-grained process because there are a lot of questions back and forth between the two people on the phone. Mail-order is similar to a coarse-grained process because the order form has all the back-and-forth queries built into it.

In other words, a coarse-grained service gets around the need for multiple API calls necessitated by a point-to-point applications by encapsulating all the necessary information in a single chunk of XML data.

ZapThink has a multi-phase model for the adoption of Web services technologies. "We believe that Web services will be adopted in a series of fits and starts as companies reach one of these barriers to adoption," Bloomberg said. When a barrier is reached, he explained, adoption will slow and vendors will then create an opportunity by solving the problem with new technologies.

The first major stumbling block, Bloomberg said, was security. "We're in the process of getting over that one," he said. Management is the next roadblock in ZapThink's model, followed by transactions, choreography and so on.

ZapThink believes that Web services management will become the next hotly-contested battleground in Web services, ballooning from the current $30 million market to a $9.2 billion market by 2007. While the big enterprise players, like Computer Associates , Hewlett-Packard , IBM and BEA Systems are likely to dominate by the end of that range -- ZapThink predicts large vendors will own 60 percent of the total systems management market by 2007 -- Bloomberg said there is a window of opportunity for the smaller players to push forward.

"The key to that is really what the bigger players are up to," Bloomberg said. "Each of them definitely has Web services management on their product roadmap. The key Web services management capabilities are coming 18 months down the road."

Bloomberg explained that the big players can't afford to get too far ahead of their customers, and will roll out their solutions as customer demand warrants them. That creates the opportunity for smaller companies.

"The smaller companies have the ability to be a little bit more nimble," he said. Those that get in early will likely to have room to maneuver until mid-2004, when ZapThink predicts the large system management vendors will begin to dominate the Service-Oriented Management (SOM) space, with the SOM point solutions segment reaching its peak in 2005.

However, with more than a dozen competitors already in the space, Bloomberg said he expects many to fall by the wayside. Those that survive to the point that the large system management vendors begin to take over will be likely targets for partnerships and acquisitions. "There's clearly going to be consolidation and shifting business models," Bloomberg said.

In the meantime, Web services management technologies are not likely to be hampered due to slow development of standards, because most of the key standards are also the core Web services standards: SOAP, WSDL and XML. However, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) has begun work on a business-to-business management standard that will allow partners to extend their Web services management practices to partners.

"It makes sense for company A's Web services management to be able to communicate with company B's Web services management," Bloomberg said. OASIS has not yet named the specification, but it is in development under OASIS' Management Protocol Technical Committee.