As Web services standards mature over the next few years, they will increasingly challenge the ability of CIOs to successfully incorporate them into the enterprise.

Web Services

Web services are a metadata-driven, agile infrastructure of composable service protocols based on a common composition language (XML), a common protocol binding strategy (WSDL/UDDI), and active network protocols (SOAP). They will alternately simplify and reduce the cost of integration and interaction behavior among two or more network-based applications and services. Broad industry and end-user support for simplifying the mechanics of aggregating Web-based applications, services, and information will position Web services as a leading business integration tool.

The move to Web services will catalyze the “third generation” of the Internet. The first was the ASCII-based, non-commercial Internet prior to 1992. The second was the HTML-based Web, which began in 1992. The third will be the emerging “programmable Web” – based on XML and implemented in the form of Web services -which will enable transactional programmability built into the core fabric of Internet/intranet use.

Timelines For Web Services Adoption

Initial Web services implementations will be little more than instances of Internet-based integration and interoperability standards, primarily within the enterprise.

By 2004, companies will seek to leverage the network effect of Web services by transitioning to a business operations integration paradigm that enables cooperative, cross-industry, multiparty transaction participation. By 2004, the portal will be a cost of doing business for Global 2000 organizations and it will become a leading consumer of Web services-enabled application development, integration, and delivery services.

Through 2004/05, Web services will struggle to provide comparable functionality to more traditional Enterprise Application Integration technology because its immaturity will constrain fulfillment of the complexities of end-to-end process and technology integration. Growing concerns over Web services’ inter-enterprise integration capabilities will promote new discipline in application “securability”.

Continued consolidation in middleware and B2B process integration markets (2003/04), coupled with Web services’ rapid adoption, will promulgate a new class of lightweight, full-function, commodity-class adapters for data transformation and integration by 2005.

By 2006, Web services will emerge as a new services-oriented architecture to displace component-oriented paradigms (J2EE, CORBA, COM+). ERP vendors will have completed delivery of Web services access to all business components (e.g., credit checking, pricing), enabling collaborative, role-based approaches to business relationships. Co-combined business operations will emerge by 2006 as the predominant model among value chain partners, setting the stage for enterprise-to-enterprise integration by 2007.

While technology managers address the adoption of Web services integration standards, high-performing CIOs will take a business perspective, looking at such areas as architecture, governance, and training on the ease and cost-effectiveness of Web services-based connections among disparate information sources, as well as partners, employees, customers, and suppliers.

As a result of the extensive changes Web services will bring, IT executives will have plenty of issues to address. Technology and product immaturity will wreak havoc on IT organizations that do not have robust development and operations playbooks (e.g., principles, processes, internal controls) and appropriate interface development skills.

As well, legal issues, such as confidentiality and liability, will handicap rapid setup and teardown of business relationships and transactions enabled by Web services.

Three pronged strategy

During the next three years, to buffer the uncertainty, immaturity, and unpredictability of introducing Web services into the IT and business portfolio, savvy IT executives will implement the following three-pronged strategy:

    Value management and portfolio analysis to define and communicate the risk, reward, and timing of Web services investments.Sound governance, including program and project management as well as enterprise business and information architectures, to ensure that Web services deployment does not compromise business-performance integrity.IT organization preparation, with emphasis on high-quality processes and internal controls that assess situations, define opportunities, and employ repeatable, reusable patterns of application and infrastructure development and operations techniques.

The goal will be to minimize the seductively easy approach of slapping a Web services-enabled front end onto any functionality that users demand an interface to, and instead to drive a controllable, rational, affordable business externalization program that will translate to market leadership.

Value Management and Portfolio Analysis

Value management and portfolio analysis are gaining broad IT industry awareness and will serve as valuable tools to communicate Web services’ risk, reward, and timing impact applied to various market scenarios. IT executives should apply this discipline to build Web services project requests that categorize and compare business opportunities (real and potential), based on several attributes. The following are but a few examples:

    Business value of coarse-grained enterprise capabilities or competencies (e.g., credit scoring, order processing, product design validation).Time criticality of information (e.g., real time, near real time, batch); the asynchronous nature of Web services will not have the performance of TP-monitor-controlled environments.Web services-driven “sideswiping” paradigm shifts in the physical value chain or upper layers of abstraction (e.g., data, information, knowledge) that will lead to transitional value chains.

Web Services

Web services are a metadata-driven, agile infrastructure of composable service protocols based on a common composition language (XML), a common protocol binding strategy (WSDL/UDDI), and active network protocols (SOAP). They will alternately simplify and reduce the cost of integration and interaction behavior among two or more network-based applications and services. Broad industry and end-user support for simplifying the mechanics of aggregating Web-based applications, services, and information will position Web services as a leading business integration tool.

The move to Web services will catalyze the “third generation” of the Internet. The first was the ASCII-based, non-commercial Internet prior to 1992. The second was the HTML-based Web, which began in 1992. The third will be the emerging “programmable Web” – based on XML and implemented in the form of Web services -which will enable transactional programmability built into the core fabric of Internet/intranet use.

Timelines For Web Services Adoption

Initial Web services implementations will be little more than instances of Internet-based integration and interoperability standards, primarily within the enterprise.

By 2004, companies will seek to leverage the network effect of Web services by transitioning to a business operations integration paradigm that enables cooperative, cross-industry, multiparty transaction participation. By 2004, the portal will be a cost of doing business for Global 2000 organizations and it will become a leading consumer of Web services-enabled application development, integration, and delivery services.

Through 2004/05, Web services will struggle to provide comparable functionality to more traditional Enterprise Application Integration technology because its immaturity will constrain fulfillment of the complexities of end-to-end process and technology integration. Growing concerns over Web services’ inter-enterprise integration capabilities will promote new discipline in application “securability”.

Continued consolidation in middleware and B2B process integration markets (2003/04), coupled with Web services’ rapid adoption, will promulgate a new class of lightweight, full-function, commodity-class adapters for data transformation and integration by 2005.

By 2006, Web services will emerge as a new services-oriented architecture to displace component-oriented paradigms (J2EE, CORBA, COM+). ERP vendors will have completed delivery of Web services access to all business components (e.g., credit checking, pricing), enabling collaborative, role-based approaches to business relationships. Co-combined business operations will emerge by 2006 as the predominant model among value chain partners, setting the stage for enterprise-to-enterprise integration by 2007.

Sound Governance

IT executives will need business and information architecture to objectively model just enough of the business functions, processes, and information flows to facilitate decision-making, perform impact analysis, and create a holistic view of the enterprise’s future-state architecture.

IT executives should define cross-boundary rules of engagement to establish acceptable working behavior with individuals and teams from other organizations, regions, etc. Specific disciplines to cover include technology development, quality assurance, and user acceptance testing.

Economies of scale and information-sharing constructs will determine how information from applications, services, and data must be structured. One specific issue to address is understanding the economic value of information over time. Information loses value with time; therefore, it should be managed accordingly.

IT Organization Preparation

Application development managers will need robust processes that emphasize reusable and modular application functionality, transactions, and data.

Infrastructure development managers should create a cohesive integration strategy (e.g., hub and spoke) capable of producing rapid, controllable setup and teardown of scalable interfaces to, and integration among, application, services, and data.

Operations managers need to instill excellence in IT operations by creating process playbooks (e.g., help desk, training, backup/restore), rewarding individuals and teams for adopting and implementing playbook methods, participating in the vision stage of new requests, and emphasizing controllable quality of experience across a matrix of Web services-enabled applications and services.

Across all three disciplines, IT managers should build an inventory of competencies in designing, engineering, building, and running reusable, services-based interfaces, realizing that finding and maintaining an optimal balance in full-time versus one-time needs are important.

A Look At The Vendors

The following four large platform vendors have significant Web services capabilities and/or have played dominant roles in Web services standards development:

Microsoft: Microsoft is one of the strongest and earliest proponents of the Web services model. Internet-based Web services fit well with the company’s desire to move to a usage-based revenue model that eliminates uneven and uncertain revenue streams based on upgrade cycles. Microsoft has been highly active on the standards front with UDDI and WSDL. Given its early and aggressive stance, we expect Microsoft to be a leading provider of Web services infrastructure in 2003.

IBM: IBM’s approach has been practical, coordinating all its software divisions to ensure a horizontal response to the new technology, rather than encapsulating it in a single product. Web services enablers are found in WebSphere 4.0 and WebSphere Studio, as well as Tivoli (Web Services Manager for Web services monitoring). Web services-enabling toolkits are available in DB2 and Domino.

BEA: Rather than announcing a new brand name, BEA will add Web services support as part of the evolution of its solid BEA WebLogic E-Business Platform. This includes the company’s first foray into application development with its Workshop capability (e.g., Orchestration). The existing campaign manager, personalization, and commerce products have been rolled into Web services-enabled WebLogic Portal.

Sun: Sun’s Open Net Environment (ONE) was developed as a high-level architectural model for all products under the iPlanet umbrella, the Forte tools, and the Solaris operating system. The differentiator has been good recognition of n-channel services (by including the idea of context in its definition of, and explicit support for, wireless devices) and a good foundation with its Sun ONE Application Server and Sun ONE Directory Server.

Other high-profile vendors with less influential offerings include:

Hewlett Packard: HP has stepped away from the market after making a lighthearted attempt with its e-Speak initiative. We do not expect to see substantial, enduring Web services capabilities from HP until it fully digests its Compaq acquisition. By then, existing customers will buy some functionality, but will be forced to consider current tools and services.

ERP vendors: ERP vendors have either stated delivery plans or are in the process of delivering Web services support. Although these vendors will make significant efforts to seduce business users with the benefits of Web services, IT executives should not overlook the need for a good process as well as middleware infrastructure tools/facilities to ensure that Web services options are properly applied and managed.

Novell’s SilverStream: Prior to its acquisition by Novell, SilverStream’s independence gave it the ability to react rapidly to new technologies, and enabled it to be one of the first to the plate with Web services. SilverStream’s Web services platform goes under the new brand name of eXtend and includes its SilverStream Application Server, ePortal, and xCommerce products.

Sybase: Sybase has declared its intention to support Web services and associated protocols. Its EAServer incorporates Web services protocol, including a template creator to generate WSDL documents for CORBA and EJB components.

Infrastructure management firms: There is an amorphous set of issues around Web services deployment and management when moving to a large-scale context, including service definitions, service metadata, and the creation and presentation of new services through multiple service packaging. Vendors such as Actional, Bowstreet, Cape Clear, Fiorano, Flamenco, Grand Central, Interbind (acquired by Killdara), PolarLake, Systinet, and Velocigen (acquired by Blue Titan) represent this segment. Some will eventually be acquired by large platform providers, and others will disappear. I do not see niche market survival as an option.

First Steps To Accelerate Growth

With vendors making plenty of market noise and end users trying to figure out Web services’ impact on the business, IT executives should take the following first (transformation) steps to accelerate the growth of Web services experience:

Work with business peers to logically componentize the business. Understand the enterprise’s core competencies and how externalization will impact business performance.

Build a Web services-based interface to a function that is not currently vital to business performance or integrity, but needs low-cost externalization to partners, employees, customers, and suppliers.

Update service-level agreements. Review how new Web services-enabled interaction models will impact the IT organization’s ability to comply with existing service-level agreements. And update SLAs with Web services clauses that do not compromise the ability of the IT organization to consistently and cost-effectively perform.

Implement a process to model the impact of Web services-derived unplanned events to the enterprise. The goal here is to figure how not to be “Amazoned” by a competitive influence. A dynamic planning model will derive this awareness by doing the following: gathering environmental awareness through a threshold criteria lens; performing SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats); and creating scenario plans packaged by their market-value influence and execution plans.

Create a steering committee that can craft Web services-based innovation options into sets of execution plans for future deployment.

Be Prepared

As Web services imbue increasing unpredictability in business environments, sustainable success will come from preparing and then leveraging an arsenal of alternatives. Web services will have plenty of compromises that IT executives should work around.

Newly arrived external function providers will have difficulty remaining viable. Users should have contractual options and risk-mitigation plans to protect against the instability of external function providers, driven primarily by short-term costs, long-term costs, and out-of-contract support situations if the vendor goes out of business.

Putting a Web services interface on everything introduces unknown risk. Just because it can be done does not mean it should be done. Web services will catalyze the need for top-down discipline to prevent uncontrolled and unwanted access to applications, services, and data.

Coping With Complications

IT executives should respond to complicating factors associated with Web services adoption. Forced upgrades from function providers that interfere with the business’s financial and time constraints should be planned for. Heavy custom coding (e.g., legacy applications) will prevent optimal benefit from Web services due to the need for extensive functional/process relinking and integration.

IT executives should communicate the impact of deploying Web services-enabled functionality that does not fully comply with accepted Web services definition.

Lack of controlling infrastructure will introduce security administrative control and quality-of-service challenges. IT executives should include these issues in their security program. Ultimately, lack of experience in services-oriented software design will be the dominant Achilles’ heel of Web services success.

Doug Lynn is Vice President, Executive Directions for research and consulting firm META Group. For more than 15 years, Mr. Lynn has provided ongoing assistance to CIOs and IT executives managing complex transactional, informational, and related IT services. The company’s Web address is metagroup.com.



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