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Keeping Web services on the straight and narrow

The Web services phenomenon keeps rolling along, despite the fact there are few serious corporate implementations of technologies and systems based on the key standards. Can the Web services promise meet long-term reality, or will it eventually go the way of proprietary minicomputers, client/server systems and computer-aided software engineering?

Stories on the promise of Web services standards to easily bring together dissimilar new and legacy systems among other solutions have spread through the trade and general press. We at ADT have been writing about the technology for many months. But after spending a lot of years in this business, some questions linger: Can essential Web services standards get and maintain the support of the key suppliers to IT? Which supplier will be the first to add proprietary specs to the standard to gain a ''competitive edge''?

History shows that despite proclamations of support, there should be at least some skepticism about long-term success. Remember the fate of the OSF, Unix International and other bureaucracies that tried to create a single Unix standard and develop specifications for linking dissimilar systems (remember the DCE spec)?

In this issue, middleware consultant Peter Fischer (see ''Answering the critical Web services questions'' ) lends his support to the Web services experience, urging IT organizations to jump on the Web services bandwagon and adopt still-maturing standards like UDDI along with more stable standards like XML, SOAP and WSDL. Fischer maintains that Web services can provide non-intrusive, standards-based application integration.

Despite the hope, this space continues to cast a wary eye on any integration technology that requires extensive agreement among competing suppliers. In recent interviews with ADT, Sun executives professed fear that Microsoft and IBM are trying to squeeze them out of Web services standards leadership and are downplaying Java. At the same time, at the June XML Web Services One conference, IBM emerging technologies head Rod Smith made the point to ADT that Web services and XML are ''a greater value proposition than just Java.'' Could this be a foundation for Web services dissent?

My guess is that some kind of split among key players will occur at some time. At that point, it will be up to you in IT to force the sides back together on Web services. Remember, these guys need you more than you need them.

This issue also marks the return of middleware guru Max Dolgicer to the columns of ADT. In ''Servlets and EJBs: Friends or foes?,'' Max and colleagues Gerhard Bayer and Michael Bardash explore which of these technologies is best for specific e-business applications.

About the Author

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

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