Web services mgmt. gathering steam

With management still a major question in the Web services model, start-ups, major vendors and standards bodies are stepping up efforts to provide answers to corporate customers.

This week, Actional Corp. and AmberPoint Inc. will unveil upgrades to their Web services management platforms. And the Web Services Distributed Management technical committee at the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) will meet to discuss the creation of standard management protocols. The group plans to have an initial specification defined early next year.

And next month start-up Westbridge Technology Inc. will enhance the management capabilities of its software.

This activity follows Hewlett-Packard Co.’s (HP’s) purchase of Web services management start-up Talking Blocks earlier this month and Computer Associates International Inc.’s (CA’s) acquisition of Adjoin, another start-up, in July.

“Companies like HP and CA are jumping into the market whole-hog,” says Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with ZapThink. “They want their tools to be fully enabled for Web services management. And the smaller players are trying to get enough traction for when the big guys start to sign up customers.”

Bloomberg says companies realize that next year there will be a broader acceptance of Web services and service-oriented architectures. With that will come the need for software focused on the acknowledged weak points of Web services: security, reliable messaging, business-process workflow and management.

“You can build Web services easy enough, but management so you can promote reuse is really important,” says Scott Dowell, IT manager for Science Applications International, which is in the early stages of building a services-oriented architecture. “Once we started to expand our Web services, such as with our employee self-service portal, we knew we had to get something to help manage those services,” says Dowell, who uses software from Actional.

Actional next week will provide additional help with the release of Actional 5.0. New features include SoapStation Edge, a Web services broker with an integrated XML firewall that includes access-control and message-integrity capabilities.

“IT thinks of management now as how to monitor things and we do a lot of that. But we are now laying down key infrastructure components and control mechanisms so you can see what’s going on and change it to rectify problems,” says James Phillips, chief strategist for Actional.

AmberPoint is adding to its capabilities with its Exception Manager, which can detect faults or problems within messages.

Competitor Westbridge also has advancements in the works with the release next month of its XMS 3.0. The software will focus on managing collections of Web services that are part of a larger Web service.

These three small vendors, and competitors such as Blue Titan, Confluent and Infravio, are battling major management vendors that also are eyeing Web services.

HP’s purchase of Talking Blocks was a move to incorporate Web services management into the company’s broader Adaptive Infrastructure model. And CA plans to use its acquisition of Adjoin to build Web services into its broader UniCenter platform. Later this year, CA is scheduled to release UniCenter Web Services Distributed Management, which uses a set of agents to automatically discover Web services and monitor service characteristics of Web services transactions.

IBM Corp. is integrating its WebSphere application server and its Tivoli management software to address service-oriented architectures. Microsoft Corp. is scrambling to define its management strategy based on its Distributed Systems Initiative. Next month the company will announce it is integrating tools from AmberPoint with Visual Studio.Net so developers can build applications that are management-aware.

In the background, OASIS is developing standards that would let corporate users mix and match software from all these vendors.

Two weeks ago, CA, IBM and Talking Blocks submitted a proposal called WS-Manageability, which defines what it takes to manage a Web service. In July, HP submitted its Web Services Management Framework.

OASIS’s Web Services Distributed Management Group hopes the two will form the foundation for a single protocol not only to manage Web services but also to build Web services interfaces into management software.