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Standards fights slow Web services

Wrangling among vendors seeking competitive advantage is slowing the adoption of protocols to support commercially viable Web services, contends Ray Valdes, research director at Gartner Inc. (http://www.gartner.com), a Stamford, Conn.-based consulting firm.

''Many observers have seen limitations in the Web services protocols,'' he said during a session on portals and Web services at the recent Gartner ITxpo in San Diego. ''They see that there are capabilities needed for security, for transactions, for workflow and for orchestration.''

Developers working on enterprise portal projects incorporating Web services should research the current status of evolving standards for issues such as security, Valdes said. He then recommended that they design for where the technology is expected to be when the project is completed.

Valdes cautioned that this approach will not eliminate the need for some reworking as the standards evolve, but it should minimize it.

While standards covering issues such as security and transactions are still in flux, Valdes noted that the specific Web services standards -- SOAP, WSDL and UDDI -- are stable and vendor tools are mature.

However, the scope of Web services development for outward facing portals is limited not only by the slow evolution in terms of issues like security, but also by the lack of available business data and applications, he noted.

''There aren't that many commercially viable, externally directed Web services deployments,'' Valdes said. ''What we see are very trivial examples, a stock quote or something like that. You make a request and you get a response. It validates the technology but not the commercial viability.''

He said Gartner's analysis of this issue is that Web services will be limited to what he terms ''call-and-response mechanisms'' in portal applications because there isn't enough meat behind the interface.

''If you want something that has significant value,'' he said, ''you've got to have something on the other side of that interface. That would mean a lot of code or a lot of data or a combination.''

Valdes said commercially viable exceptions are applications in which there is accessible data and an accessible application such as the ones overnight delivery services offer to customers for package tracking.

As security and other needed standards mature, he predicted, enterprise portals with Web services will provide users with more commercially viable applications for e-business and e-commerce.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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