Web services pushes onward

The concept of Web services has been with the IT community long enough now that it is a known entity, a term that no longer leaves network managers scratching their heads as to what it is, what it does and what its very promising future holds.

It’s clear that even in its current nascent state, Web services is an ideal way for businesses, governments, health care institutions and just about every other kind of large organization we can think of to share critical business applications.

As it carefully inches its way towards being a commonplace feature on the IT landscape, Web services is being deployed in myriad configurations throughout Canada and the rest of the world. As with most time- and cost-intensive technology developments, Web services got its initial liftoff in the data departments of the types of markets that are renowned for being early adopters: financial institutions, large government offices, major retailers and others.

A case in point is the example of a New York-based brokerage firm mentioned in this issue’s feature article on page 18. Using IBM offerings, the outfit has managed to transform the way in which it handles a multitude of stock market data by the use of a Web services architecture.

And this example points to the promise the concept of Web services holds: to more efficiently connect a company and its customers, suppliers and partners to the business-critical applications that they all must share in order to conduct their mutual business. It’s no secret that the amount of data the everyday IT department has to sift through, store, manage and ultimately turn into digestible packages for those internal and external data consumers who need it, is growing at a rate that often seems overwhelming. And with more data-intensive technologies on the horizon, such as radio frequency identification, or RFID, the situation should only intensify in the months and years ahead.

Hence the importance of having Web services develop at a pace that is at least as fast as what the IT community has witnessed to this point in the technology’s development. Or perhaps even faster, which many involved parties would agree would be a boon to business and the way in which it is carried out.

If this is to happen, various standards around the technologies that collectively make up the Web services engine have to be ironed out, such as those around the middleware layer that help facilitate the communication between servers within otherwise unrelated server farms.

For this to happen, a great deal of cooperation and patience has to be shown by all involved participants, including the vendors that make the Web services platforms, the developers who craft the applications that deliver on the connectivity promise, and even the IT departments that ultimately use the finished product. The less infighting there is, the speedier the adoption and implementation phases will be.

Easier said than done, to be sure, but nevertheless a inescapable fact that is best faced head on and not swept under the Web services rug.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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