Report: Web services hype

Heaping helpings of Web Services hyperbole should be handled with a dose of technological reality, according to International Data Corp. (IDC). In a report released Thursday, the Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm concluded that Web services’ next phase – delivering software as a service – is at least a decade away.

Web Services are and will be successful – the big problem is that everyone is expecting a Web services reality that is not feasible with today’s technology, said IDC Application Design and Construction tools research director Rikki Kirzner.

“Open the hood and kick the tires before buying into (Web services hype),” Kirzner said. While the concept can contribute tangible benefits to solving enterprise integration, Kirzner reported the current Web service vision is “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.”

“The caution here is to the developers,” Kirzner said, adding there are several “technology and business issues that have to be solved long before we’re ever going to be able to do software as a service across the Web.”

Web services, Kirzner said, are proving their value, particularly when used to integrate heterogeneous systems in highly decentralized organizations. But the reality is that current Web services will have to be built primarily from software components and elements that must be identified, located, accessed and dynamically assembled into customizable, turnkey applications, the IDC report found.

Extending the enterprise into the public Internet poses several challenges and is a few years out. Semantics, standards, security and privacy issues all present real barriers to Web services implementation, Kirzner said. “Think about the amount of legal effort and contract work involved,” Kirzner noted, when it comes to the sharing of intellectual properties, applets and data components required by the current Web services vision.

Enterprises will also have to experience a cultural shift in the way they see software assets and intellectual property rights, which will take some time, Kirzner said, adding that realistic expectations of Web services are needed before widespread adoption and profits are achieved.

John Donaldson, a WebSphere business unit executive for IBM Canada in Markham, Ont., agreed that current technologies don’t yet rival traditional software, but noted having a rudimentary knowledge of Web services’ potential can benefit the enterprise.

Donaldson contends that vendors, analysts and customers alike are beginning to realize the importance of creating a Web services strategy. Web services adoption will evolve first inside a firewall in an Internet B2E environment, then to an extranet B2E, and finally into the larger public Internet market, Donaldson said.

“Some of the value of Web services we’re actually are seeing in an Internet environment…(but) there has been a panacea of acceptance in the public market which we are a long way from,” Donaldson said

Paul Tan, president and CEO of Mississauga, Ont.-based XML developer Web2XML, noted the power of Web services to transform traditional applications into distributed applications is the main driver. The bottom line is enterprises need to discover why that want the technology, Tan said. “A lot of the tangible benefits will not be realized until more people start adopting it. If they have a clear vision or an idea of why they want to do it…it makes sense to start implementing it now, even though it’s fairly new.”