Realizing Web-Services

SOUTH AFRICA — Web Services may succeed in smoothing the progress of business-to-business communications over the Net but they still have a lot of ground to cover before realizing their potential.

Currently only a select few — HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Sun – are promoting Service products as an adjunct to already existing or new software server applications. The optimal functioning of these Service add-ons relies, however, on vendor independent interoperability. Given the highly competitive arena in which these purveyors operate and a bad track record when it comes to collaboration, the future for the service model seems shaky at best.

Microsoft, in particular, is infamous for its hesitancy to give support to any standard that might damage the Windows monopoly. Should MS or any of its Web-Service alliance partners fall short of totally committing to the ongoing standards process then things could run afoul for Web-Services pretty quickly.

A dearth of cross-vendor support for a workable standard and the existence of Services as mere appendages make buying into them highly problematic for most IT firms whom are all currently suffering from downturn-constrained budgets. These firms cant realistically afford to buy into products that may or may not realise their full potential on some hazy date in the distant future.

For the Web Service model to succeed it needs the same universal support that vendors first gave to the standards that form the backbone of the Net, TCP/IP, HTTP, and HTML. SOAP, UDDI, WSDL, the three foundation protocols for Web Services, are far from being open standards and should the Service model succeed it would need the same universal support that first propelled seamless communications over the Net.

Furthermore, business functionality within the ambit of Web Services depends on the resolution of XML standards for authentication, identity, management, transactions, quality of service, and payments.

Until such issues are resolved, Web Services remain an unworkable, if tantalising afterthought.

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