Study: Web Services Gaining Steam

Web services technology is coming into its own within the enterprise,
according to a new survey prepared jointly by the Software & Information
Industry Association (SIIA) and Systinet (a provider of Web services
infrastructure software), with the promise of accelerating adoption in

Even so, and perhaps surprisingly in light of the hype which has followed
Web services since the concept was first broadcast, the survey found no
real consensus on whether Web services is a disruptive technology (one
which significantly changes the way people and systems operate). About 45
percent of the respondents said it is not, while nearly 30 percent felt it

“Many consider it complementary to existing technologies,” Ian Bruce,
director of marketing at Systinet, told Tuesday.

Still, the great majority (74 percent) said Web services can deliver
business value today, primarily by “easing the pain and expense associated
with application integration.”

That message comes into focus when considering that respondents said their
companies requirements for adopting Web services are information/knowledge
(about 90 percent), a technology strategy (more than 80 percent), a strong
business case (about 80 percent), and skilled staff (nearly 80 percent).
Fewer said technology partners to manage or deploy the technology or
consulting advice were requirements. But despite the need for demonstrating
a strong business case for adoption, 79 percent of the survey’s respondents
said their companies will use Web services in the coming year. Breaking
that down even further, 50 percent said Web services would be a significant
part of their overall IT infrastructures within 12 months. More than 77
percent said they believe Web services is important to their organization’s

Additionally, the survey found that companies are not taking a
“wait-and-see” approach to the technology. Just about 30 percent claimed
their companies already have live deployments of Web services — more than
the preparers anticipated. More than 40 percent claimed pilot deployments,
about 60 percent said their companies were experimenting with Web services
and nearly 70 percent said their companies were or had investigated the

Most of those currently working with Web services said they are spending
their time SOAP-enabling existing applications (just over 30 percent),
integrating existing internal applications (more than 25 percent) and
creating new Web services applications (about 25 percent).

But that picture changes in one year, with firms taking on a much more
diverse and sophisticated range of projects that move away from simple
point-to-point integration projects in favor of critical,
outside-the-firewall applications. Respondents said they will be using Web
services to connect to third party services (about 25 percent), integrate
existing internal applications (just less than 25 percent), achieve
business-to-business integration (just over 25 percent), create new Web
services applications (just less than 25 percent), create a network of Web
services (about 25 percent), create and coordinate public Web services
(just less than 25 percent), and create new service architectures (just
less than 25 percent).

“The popular perception is that everything is going to happen inside the
firewall,” Bruce said, noting that the survey’s results gave the lie to
that notion. “It shows a level of confidence in the technology.”

The current major focus for Web services products are development tools and
runtime environments, but that picture also changes within 12 months. The
survey found companies will begin to spend less time on those products and
spend more time working on security frameworks, UDDI registries,
performance monitoring and management/orchestration.

“There’s a lot of speculation: is Web services going to be used for
anything critical in the foreseeable future?” Bruce said. “The answer is
clearly yes.”

He added, “A much more sophisticated pattern in the use of Web services
will appear.”

Getting down to basics, the survey found that companies are getting the
message about what Web services are on a technical level, with 62.8 percent
of respondents correctly identifying Web services as “network-based
software applications developed to interact with other applications using
Internet standard technologies and connections to seamlessly perform
business processes.” Additionally, the report found that only in the
end-user firms did a significant number of respondents (11.6 percent)
conflate Web services with “software as a service.”

Still, respondents were less clear about how they could best use Web
services to benefit their businesses.

“People know what Web services are, but they don’t know what it can do,”
Bruce said.

Not surprisingly, respondents identified security as the top risk of the
technology. But they also rated manageability and reliability nearly as
highly. Other major concerns included scalability, platform independence,
interoperability, immature technology and immature standards. When it came
to the business risks associated with Web services, incomplete standards
and a lack of clear business benefits topped the list.

But the respondents also had plenty of good things to say about the
benefits of the technology. More than 90 percent cited flexible integration
and the reuse of IT assets as benefits. Just less than 90 percent
identified business process automation, allowing IT to keep pace with
business and extending the life of legacy applications as benefits. As for
business benefits of the technology, reducing costs and time to market
topped the list with nearly 50 percent each. More than 40 percent cited
making their businesses more efficient and increasing revenues.

“They’re equally vehement about the benefits as they are about the risks,”
Bruce said.

The survey compiled 790 usable responses solicited through Systinet
contacts, SIIA members and prospects, and the ComputerWorld magazine
Web site. Bruce said respondents
came from about 700 individual organizations and were more or less evenly
split between companies with more than 500 employees and companies with
less than 500 employees. About 85 percent of the companies represented were
based in the U.S.

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