WebMethods touts app mantra

Positioning Web services as purely an integration issue, webMethods Inc. and a host of partners have attacked the space occupied by other application server and development tools vendors promising to transform applications with a point and click.

WebMethods last week bolstered its Web services position with endorsements from technology 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.

These companies affirmed that webMethods’ integration platform could turn packaged applications into enterprise Web services with three mouse clicks.

“Web services is about integration,” said Scott Opitz, webMethods senior vice-president for strategic planning in Fairfax, Va. “[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.”

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.

WebMethods joins the ranks of Tibco and SeeBeyond, 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.

“The advantage that the integration vendors have right now is that a Web service … isn’t very useful,” Willett said. “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 work flow.”

In the future, developers will be building new apps that will take advantage of Web services as a new type of integration, Willett added.

“Those applications will be premised that you have Web services integration on the back end,” Willett said.

Infrastructure providers such as webMethods and Tibco bring infrastructure capabilities and service offerings that enterprises need in addition to developer tools, said Gordon Benett, an analyst at Aberdeen Group in Boston.

“There’s nothing in principle that they’re bringing that you couldn’t lay down with an application server,” Benett said. “The open standards are open enough that you could pry the lid off APIs. webMethods … can bring together best-of-breed solutions so you don’t have to do it at a developer level. It becomes a service aggregation … that they’re providing.”

Benett noted that the companies endorsing webMethods’ platform last week will not force their customers to use the webMethods platform.

“If they can find a cheaper, faster better relationship … by spreading the base across three different middleware partners, they’re going to do that,” Benett said.

Eric Austvold, an analyst at AMR Research in Boston, said that the majority of enterprises’ Web services work during 2002 would focus on integration behind the firewall as they test Web services among divisions or departments.

3, 2, 1, service!

webMethods’ three-click process enables integration services to speak SOAP so they can act as Web services.

* Click one: Select the integration service from the network tree.

* Click two: Name the integration service.

* Click three: Generate the Web service.