WebMethods: Three clicks and you

WebMethods Inc. fired a shot across the bow of application server and development tools vendors on Feb. 11 with the announcement that its platform can transform applications into Web services with a point and click.

Partners such as PeopleSoft Inc., SAP AG, i2 Technologies Inc., Oracle Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., J.D. Edwards & Co., Siebel Systems Inc., and BMC Software Inc. have thrown their weight behind the company’s integration platform, which can turn packaged applications into enterprise Web services with three mouse clicks.

Companies can use the latest version of the WebMethods platform to create Web services from any existing application, according to company officials, including packaged applications as well as databases and legacy, mainframe, and custom-built applications.

The announcement is geared toward culling through some of the hype that is whirling around Web services, said Scott Opitz, WebMethods senior vice-president for strategic planning.

“Web services is about integration,” Opitz said. “It isn’t about development now. [Web services] don’t deal with security [and] they don’t deal with business process management. There are a lot of things missing where you need an integration platform,” he said.

WebMethods’ Web services approach combines support of common protocols, such as SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and WSDL (Web Services Description Language), with the management capabilities, transactional integrity, and security features required for enterprise-level functionality, according to company officials.

Through the use of WebMethods’ integration technology, i2 has native Web services technology embedded directly into its applications, said Palab Chatterjee, i2 executive vice president of worldwide development. Web services standards will be critical to the company’s architecture and value chain management solutions, Chatterjee added.

WebMethods joins the ranks of Tibco Software Inc. and SeeBeyond Technology Corp., which also offer the ability to expose their processes as Web services with a point and click, said Shawn Willett, a principal analyst at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis Inc.

For now, Willett said, integration vendors do have an edge over application server and application development vendors in the increasingly crowded Web services market.

“The advantage that the integration vendors have right now is that a Web service right now isn’t very useful. You need other things to make mission-critical applications. You do need things that you get from a message broker, like back-end access, transaction integrity, and workflow,” he said.

However, Willett noted that all vendors targeting the Web services arena are focusing more on how to expose applications as a Web service as opposed to business benefits of such exposure.

“There has to be a special kind of application where you would want to expose it as a Web application. Why would you want to expose your J.D. Edwards payroll system as a Web service? What bottom-line benefit would you get out of it?” Willett said.