WebMethods defends EAI despite Web services

Web services promise to make application integration easier, but they won’t replace EAI (enterprise application integration) or other flavors of integration such as EDI (electronic data interchange), said Scott Opitz, senior vice-president of marketing at Fairfax, Va.-based webMethods Inc.

Opitz spoke at an event here for financial analysts and customers.

With increasing pressure from both Web services and application server vendors such as IBM Corp., BEA Systems Inc., and iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions that are adding integration servers and services into their stacks, EAI players such as webMethods, Tibco Software Inc., SeeBeyond Technology Corp., and Vitria Technology Inc. are embracing Web services as a less expensive means of integrating applications.

“Web services should make you more efficient. It should lower the cost of integration. Integration, today, is expensive,” Opitz said.

Opitz continued that EAI software is a natural fit for Web services. “Everything is already carved up into the pieces so it can be made available” in a Web services fashion, he said.

He added that, and as most analyst firms agree, companies are starting Web services integration projects within the firewall initially. The next step will be to move outside the firewall to connect with business partners and customers.

“The bulk of the [Web services] work for the next 18 months will be inside the firewall, and it will be integration,” Opitz said.

Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research, said that Web services help with integration, but are not a panacea.

“Web services is damn slow today. It’s a bulky, built-on, annoying message protocol — but it’s a standard,” Schadler said.

Opitz said, however, that even Web services standards, namely XML (Extensible Markup Language) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), won’t solve all integration problems. For instance, with Web services architectures there are no standardized means for transactional integrity and, in turn, no way to guarantee messaging and non-repudiation. Transactional integrity becomes particularly important in financial-related scenarios, when it is critical that a message, such as purchase order or account credit, is sent only once and received and acted only once.

Furthermore, Opitz said that not all legacy systems will be retrofitted for Web services. “That is not going to happen,” he said, adding that integrating those will require more traditional approaches.

Finally, there is nothing inherent to Web services specifications that describes how to communicate effectively with a database or a packaged application, Opitz said.

On the other hand, vendors such as webMethods are filling in some of the holes, such as transactional integrity, that exist in Web services, according to Forrester’s Schadler. He added that they provide control systems with transactional integrity.

“The tipping point for Web services is probably around 2004,” Schadler said.