Web services hype alert

Web services hype is just hitting its peak, with a slew of rash claims and lavish predictions about how Web services and collection of standards that they represent (SOAP, WSDL, UDDI, et al) are set to transform business to business e-commerce.

This is a critical time as the real value of Web services struggles to clamber over the mass of "talk" into the land of real usage and adoption. But there's a small problem.

While some of the most vocal proponents of Web services are projecting visions of B2B nirvana, and driving the evolution of standards like UDDI in that direction, developers across the globe are starting to think about Web services in a rather different way. They see it as a really handy way to link loosely coupled systems together—within their own organizations—using a technology that doesn't bind them to a particular component model, or programming language or platform (or in the case of Java or Windows—two of the above).

And boy! There are some great visions. After casual glance at the whitepapers produced by some vendors (even IBM can be included in this list) you could be forgiven for thinking that they really believed that Web Services will create a truly changed world. A world where a little box in the corner of the office negotiates with suppliers, finds customers and runs the business with so little outside intervention that all us humans will have to do is water the plants and talk about what we did on the weekend.

End-users are excited by Web services, there's no doubt, but they're deeply suspicious of the "vision" that's being presented. They're uncertain about the resilience of the Web, they're nervous about security, and they're just not convinced that the pieces are going to be in place for some time to come. Meanwhile—they can influence the resilience and security of their own networks, and many of them are still wrestling with EAI (another problem that we were told a couple of years ago would be eliminated "just like that").

End-user organizations are going to seize on technologies like SOAP, and they're going to use them internally first, no matter what vendors and consultants tell them to do. Ultimately, the future of Web services will be determined by those pesky corporate developers. All the PDF and Powerpoint in the world won't stop them.

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About the Author

Gary Barnett is IT research director at Ovum Ltd., a United Kingdom-based consulting firm.