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IDC Issues Web Services Reality Check

Market research firm IDC sees big money in Web services, predicting the total market for software, services and hardware sales derived from Web services will reach $34 billion by 2007. However, in a recent report it offers a bit of caution to those caught up in the Web services craze.

The market research firm reports that while early adopters are successfully integrating heterogeneous systems in multiple locations, the next phase for Web services — delivering software as services — is at least a decade away.

Web services describes a standardized way of integrating Web-based applications using the XML, SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), WSDL (Web Services Description Language) and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) open standards over the Internet. Web services allow applications from different sources to communicate with each other without custom coding and are not tied to any one operating system or programming language.

In its simple and early forms, however, Web services help businesses address the integration issues facing them today, according to Rikki Kirzner, research director for IDC's Application Design and Construction Tools service. "But most of the Web services vision is just pure speculation, with no real consideration of what is achievable and what it will cost to actually build out the vision for full use on the open Internet."

In its report Software as Services? What Your Mother Didn't Tell You About This Aspect of Web services, IDC says that to realize the vision, Web services must take the form of software components and elements that are identified, located, accessed and dynamically assembled into customizable applications.

Today, IDC says, that model of Web services cannot be implemented in its entirety using current technologies. Beyond that, the sharing of components and data will raise a number of business, legal, and contractual issues.

While Web services can address some of today's integration issues, IDC says, the technology may never achieve the full-scale magnitude envisioned by its proponents. The research company cites these reasons:

  • Technology hurdles have to be taken before software can be implemented as services based on components from third-party suppliers and outsourcers.
  • Fundamental changes need to be made in the way businesses view software assets and intellectual property rights before vendors can deliver on the promise of using components as a key element of Web services.
  • Semantics, standards, security and privacy issues will present major stumbling blocks to later stages of Web services implementation.

Realistic expectations for Web services, IDC says, must be set before widespread adoption takes place.


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