PeopleSoft welcomes other IT vendors to Web services party

In a recent briefing to the San Francisco media about PeopleSoft Inc.’s Web services strategy, the company’s chief technology officer, Rick Bergquist, sent a message to the world’s largest IT vendors including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft: “Welcome to the Web services party.” While on a layover between Montreal and California, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Bergquist stopped for an interview with ComputerWorld Canada staff writer Kristy Pryma to discuss Web services and why PeopleSoft is thrilled that a number of IT vendors are pouring their budgets into it.

CWC: The term Web services has become a real buzzword over the past year. How does PeopleSoft define Web services?

Bergquist: Everyone wants to know what Web services are and what they can do for them right now. Web services are an emergence of a set of new standards to make integration easier with XML as the base. When you hear IBM or Microsoft talking about Web services, they’re defining the plumbing. We support all of those Web tools and really provide the content that goes through the plumbing. We’re complimentary. For Web services to have any meaning, they have to have content. The purpose of Web services is to allow the ubiquitous deployment of applications to span organizations.

There’s the information layer and the infrastructure layer. For the first time ever, there’s a consistency across the two competing camps – The Microsoft .Net camp and Sun’s J2EE camp. We don’t care which one our customers implement in because we’ve got those standards and are making use of them with our applications. Sun and Microsoft build tools to make Web services easier. PeopleSoft focuses on solutions, not on tools.

Our view is that we will be interfaced with whatever’s out there. Enterprise computing is not about taking sides, but about offering choices.

CWC: Why are these standards so important?

Bergquist: The standards have got to be there. Think about the history of the railroads. Before there were standards and rails didn’t have the same gauges, they were always loading and reloading trains in order to get stuff across the country and that took a lot of time and cost a lot of money. Once they got the gauges standardized, the system was streamlined and it was very easy to ship things across the country. In terms of Web services, we’ll be the cargo that rides on the rails.

CWC: Tell me about your “Welcome to the Web services party” comment.

Bergquist: PeopleSoft has offered Web Services support since its release of PeopleSoft 8. When we built PeopleSoft 8, we saw that one of the key pieces of its pure Internet architecture was to have integration that would work with XML. XML was the piece that would enable easier integration from application to application, and so we built that as a foundation before shipping. There are currently over 700 companies live on PeopleSoft 8, and we’re continuing to roll out the product with good momentum.

CWC: How soon will we see the effects of Web services on business processes?

Bergquist: I expect that it will take five years for most organizations to figure out how to change their business processes to accommodate the flow of information from places they never had it before.

We’re at the beginning of an exciting five to 10 years. We’re not limited anymore by being fixed to what you interface with; we’re only limited by imagination. Companies have to figure out how they want to change their business processes. You can take advantage of different information to allow you to act differently. If you had the information that your supplier, your partner and your customer has, what would you do to change your business processes? How would you do things differently? We’re just beginning to see innovators taking advantage of this with Web services.

CWC: What kind of advantages do you see Web services introducing?

Bergquist: To have your systems talking to other systems – internal, customer and partner – enables business to occur at faster rates and at a lower level of human intervention. This drives down costs and enables you to make better real-time decisions.

We see Web services as a way of changing business processes, where you act more intelligently based upon information that allows you to make immediate decisions about business processes, and this occurs at a lot of different levels. It’s my view that Web services should handle routine things and people should handle things that are out of the routine. People should deal with exceptions.

CWC: How is PeopleSoft positioning itself in the Web services market?

Bergquist: HP took the first crack at doing a lot of this stuff in the HP labs, and the concept got picked up by Microsoft and Sun and the rest. A lot of these companies are spending millions of dollars on marketing their Web services, and as long as they spend it for the right things, we’re thrilled. If they can build the infrastructure, we can streamline business processes. The real value is here, and we can fill that need better than anyone else.