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Some real Web services stories

Clearly, many in the high-tech world are betting heavily on a bright future for Web services. Web services were at the center of strategies outlined by IBM at last month’s DeveloperWorks conference and by Microsoft during its earlier TechEd gathering. Numerous Web services-related trade shows have sprouted up in the past year. (Truth in reporting: I’m technical chairman of the XML/Web Services One conference to be held this month in San Jose and in August in Boston.) Several industry analysts are touting the technology as the next big thing. Many IT development managers are looking closely at the potential for slashing integration costs while taking advantage of the various Web services standards.

The primary Web services standards -- SOAP, UDDI, XML and WSDL -- are so far retaining widespread support among friends and even bitter rivals like IBM and Microsoft. IBM executives concede that any hitch in the standards effort could seriously harm the firm’s overall strategy.

Web services backers promise that the technology can integrate a variety of applications and systems software far more easily and inexpensively than more established technologies -- so long as the standards maintain widespread industry support, unlike numerous standards efforts in the past that splintered following vendor disagreements.

In this issue we take a look at how corporate development groups are using Web services technology today, and how the early usage compares to the hyperbole coming from many quarters. In this month’s cover story, Web services: Report from the field , veteran technology journalist Johanna Ambrosio talks to users who are somewhat enthusiastic about the potential of Web services, but aren’t leaping headfirst into serious projects yet.

So far, Ambrosio found, organizations using the technology are starting with simple projects to find out exactly what it can do while maintaining control of still mostly unfamiliar standards and technologies. Development managers at companies like First-Citizens Bank & Trust and American Electric Power Company provide candid opinions on the current state of Web services, as well as its long-range potential. For the most part, managers say the potential is huge, but that organizations must first move on with the process of finding out how it can best be used to accomplish specific goals.

This issue also features a look at the state of open-source application servers, a past next big thing. In her feature ('Open-source servers today ')in this month’s special Programmers Report on Web services and XML, freelance writer Colleen Frye found that open source continues to slowly penetrate larger IT organizations, despite questions about scalability, management, J2EE compatibility, maintenance and support.

Frye looks at the capabilities of the most popular open-source application servers -- Tomcat, Zope, Enhydra and JBoss -- which maintain formidable development communities and support from commercial software developers.

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.

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