Software execs ponder Web services

Executives from PeopleSoft Inc., SAP AG, Tibco Software Inc., and webMethods Inc. pondered the future of Web services and collaborative applications during a panel session in Palo Alto, Calif., on May 7, raising issues such as the need for standards and security.

Speaking during a gathering sponsored by the International Business Development Network, panellists provided their perspectives during a session entitled, “Web Services and the Emergence of Collaborative Applications.”

Web services need to handle requirements such as security and reliability, said Sinisa Zimek, director of technology architecture at SAP Labs. “We cannot play around with Web services technologies,” Zimek said.

Rick Bergquist, CTO at PeopleSoft, stressed that Web services standards for functions such as security are still evolving. “There’s no standard for security and everything else,” Bergquist said. “There will have to be a new set of standards.”

Jim Green, CTO at webMethods, said Web services lack infrastructure components such as transactional integrity, security, data queuing, and multiple data format support. “Unfortunately, Web services as they exist today do not handle all of those things,” Green said.

But Green also stressed that Web services could promote collaboration and integration of old and new business processes. “Web services is a technology that can help you do that,” Green said.

Fred Meyer, chief strategy officer at Tibco, said panellists were fundamentally in agreement about the connection between collaboration and Web services, but that there are issues concerning what is inside and outside the firewall.

“I think that collaboration applications will be enabled by Web services, but I think that it’s somewhat of a red herring,” Meyer said. “You need to think about Web services as a way of assembling Web services components across some kind of an integration [platform].”

Vendors will have interoperable Web services but compete on value-added services such as business processes or analysis functions, Meyer said.

Berquist said companies are looking to balance the use of standard business processes and customization. “What every company is looking to say is, ‘Here is my advantage.’ That is really the draw for customization,” Bergquist said.

Asked about the issue of standardization of fields to boost integration between PeopleSoft and SAP applications, Bergquist said, “I think there’s a possibility for that in the long term.”

Zimek said there probably would be development of connectors to link PeopleSoft and SAP platforms.

Web services provide normalized interfaces to applications, Green said. “Existing applications are able to have a longer life span and people are able to leverage them in ways that they didn’t before,” he said.