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Service crucial to Web services future

Despite the hype, Web services is not a standalone market, said David Smith, a vice president and Web services evangelist at the Stamford, Conn.-based consulting firm Gartner Inc. (http://www.gartner.com).

IT departments exploring the value of Web services need to focus on the services that the technology can provide to their enterprise, Smith told attendees this week at the Gartner Symposium ITXPO at the San Diego Convention Center. He dubbed this approach "Service-oriented thinking."

"Web services are not the point," Smith said. "The point is the actual impact."

The key is to look at "the actual project" while taking the "no programming required" claims of Web services tool vendors with a grain of salt, he explained. IT professionals are beginning to realize that the Web services concept is not a 100% solution even for EAI, where Smith made the distinction that the standards-based technology can provide application interoperability, not integration. But the value of Web services in areas such as reusable code and service-oriented architecture are real and will have an impact in business computing, he predicted.

The early, exaggerated claims made on behalf of Web services are giving way to reality, he noted, pointing to a chart illustrating the Gartner "Hype Cycle" for the technology. The chart shows "inflated expectations" reaching its peak about a year ago. The technology now suffers through what Gartner calls "the trough of disillusionment." But the good news is that Web services will begin to move up "the slope of enlightenment" in 2004 and into "productivity" in 2005.

In two years, tools to support this Web services reality will represent a market valued at $21 billion, Smith predicted.

Among vendors of those tools, Smith said, Gartner expects IBM and Microsoft to remain market leaders in Web service technology, with BEA, Oracle and Sun continuing to challenge them.

In the area of Web services standards, he predicted that Boston-based OASIS (http://www.oasis-open.org) will emerge as the leader in 2005 with a redefined ebXML.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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