Elusive Web services killer app seen as emerging this year

You don't need a crystal ball to find what the killer application for Web services will be in 2003, maintains John McGuire, co-founder and senior vice president of engineering at Cape Clear Software, a Dublin, Ireland-based Web services tool maker, because it's under every IT manager's nose: The simplification of application integration inside the firewall.

The predicted trend in Web services, which McGuire sees emerging in the New Year, include advancing the XML-based technology from its status as a quick fix for integration projects, to recognition that it is the best fix for EAI.

McGuire said the new requirements are starting to show up in PowerPoint presentations he sees at customer sites where IT development officials are touting Web services as a tier in the application architecture rather than as an afterthought.

''Up to this time,'' McGuire explained, ''Web services projects have tended to be very tactical, so people come in and say, 'I have an integration problem, this thing looks like it will fix it.' And they've gone ahead on that basis. Increasingly, we're seeing this Web services layer starting to appear in Web services architecture diagrams.''

In McGuire's view, the search for a killer app was like hunting for an elephant standing in your conference room.

''I think this was one of the big problems with Web services when it came out,'' he explained. ''People were scouring all these UDDI registries looking for the killer application and that's not where it's happening. It's happening inside the firewall. A lot of the real application is happening in stealth mode behind the firewall. People are just using it to integrate things very quickly and cheaply. And that's where the real value is happening in Web services, it's not going to be some amazing new e-mail program or something. It's simply making stuff work inside the firewall.''

As part of this trend, McGuire said he expects to see greater emphasis on Web services working with messaging middleware, especially IBM MQSeries, as the XML-based technology is employed to integrate legacy systems.

Simplicity is another theme he sees emerging in Web services development in 2003. The Java community, in his opinion, will be putting more emphasis on simple Web services platforms with less reliance on complex J2EE application servers.

''I think you'll start to see people in the Java space realizing that you don't need an application server to run Web services,'' McGuire said. ''I think people are starting to realize that the app server from a Web services perspective is overblown. There's just too much technology in there that doesn't do anything for them in terms of Web services. So I think gradually you'll start to see that notion of the J2EE application server diminish and Web services platforms in their own right start to take over.''

He argues J2EE application servers with entity beans and multiple APIs are redundant in a Web services deployment.

''Developers want something a lot simpler,'' McGuire explained. ''They basically have a piece of Java code that they want to run as an implementation for a Web service that provides some functionality. I don't think they have the time or the inclination to go and understand really complex programming models. It has to be simplified. That's the whole kind of thrust of Web services. It's really a matter of I have a Java class, I want to make that a Web service, two or three clicks, it's now a Web service. No reading the books. It has to be a lot simpler and more automatic than it is with the J2EE container.''

He said that not only will Web services tools be simpler, but management tools for Web services will also follow the ''keep it simple'' theme in 2003.

''Management has to be very, very simple,'' McGuire said, ''something an administrator can understand: Start a service up, shut it down again. Microsoft is kind of blazing a trail here, and I think the Java community is following. We don't need any more complexity. Make it simple and make it easy to integrate as well.''

In December, McGuire's company released the final version of Cape Clear 4, which the firm describes as the next generation of its Web Services development, integration, deployment and management toolset. Since November, it has been available for download in a Beta version under the code-name G4.

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About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.


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