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Look before you leap into Web services, part 2

Web services can help some companies increase productivity and cost-savings. But it's not for everyone. Find out why the hype surrounding Web services threatens to overshadow its benefits.

The computer industry's wild enthusiasm for Web services worries enterprise systems educator Thomas Kelly. Kelly, CEO of Ann Arbor, MI-based computer systems training and courseware developer SplitFire Technologies, believes that the industry's Web services publicity machine may lead customers astray. "You would be amazed at how often businesses go off in a new and wrong direction based on media hype," he said.

Web services can offer a tremendous increase in productivity and cost savings to some, but not all, organizations, Kelly said. "Unless there's a strong business case for Web services, however, there is no reason for companies to scrap inexpensive systems that work well to use something new." In the second part of a searchWindowsManageability interview, he discusses the future of Web services and the dangers of the computer industry's penchant for hype.

sWM: Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems Corp. , IBM Corp. and other industry heavyweights have all heartily endorsed the Web services concept. How important is the backing of large technology companies to the future of Web services?

It is paramount for two reasons: infrastructure and mass appeal.

Let's remember, most big computer companies specialize in the innovation of a good idea. They take a concept and build a necessary infrastructure. With large operating system and hardware based organizations, this infrastructure consists of the system, operating system, Web server, etc. These individual entities become a complement to Web services, just as the Web services implementation may, in itself, complement other areas in a peripheral manner.

Secondly, it is critical to Web services to be accepted by the major vendors because they will bring it to the masses in a way that is easy and efficient to implement. They will also bring coordination and internal standards which are very difficult to attain from web at large. There's a danger, however: if they convert the standard to a proprietary format, I believe it will kill Web services in the form it is in today.

sWM: Why do you think these major players in the industry endorse Web services so heartily?


I believe that there does exist in Web services a legitimate solution to certain problems in some implementations. One example is the ability to use http/port 80 in a legit RPC communication. This bypasses nasty issues that may arise as the result of firewalls. Thus, the major systems vendors endorse Web services, because Web services offer a capability that is necessary in the enterprise.

sWM: How much does the media's attention given to Web services influence vendors' endorsements?

I do think the major systems vendors endorsed Web services because it will generate fad-based revenue. All fads in the industry are grounded in the solution to real problems. That is what makes a fad so powerful. All big players endorse fads that create boom business, promote integrated marketing, facilitate partnerships, and so on.

sWM: Looking in your crystal ball, can you predict how widely Web services will be used by businesses?

After all is said and done, I believe Web services will simply be another option in the enterprise model. And that's great. Options are what the industry needs. But to suggest that, at the end, Web services will be the main carrier of all applications is really just a way to sell Web services today.

sWM: Are you saying that Web services are being propelled by industry hype and not market demand?

I'm saying that Web services could be derailed by the industry's lack of clarity. The industry should stop the bombardment of product hype. Every two years we hear about some miracle elixir that will solve all the problems in an enterprise. The only thing that promise does is turn many businesses away from technology companies. When, over and over again, the panacea turns out to be three times as expensive and doesn't work as promised, people become skeptical.

sWM: Perhaps businesses' reluctance to buy new technologies today is not entirely a symptom of a bad economy? Maybe many businesses have a "once burned, twice shy" attitude?

Business users are a skeptical lot today. They're hearing: "Web services is the solution to everything." And they're saying: "This is hype." Sure, everything that proponents say can be done with Web services can technically be done. But why would businesses want to do these things? If a business can store its data on a database and access data in a way that's efficient, then why does it need to spend millions of dollars to get slightly more efficient way to store and access data? Why would they want to reinvent the wheel? The wheel works.

Of course, the computer industry replies: "It could work better!" That's because in the computer industry, it's about computers. In the rest of the world, it's about business. This is going to be a shrinking industry if the computer industry doesn't start thinking about businesses' real needs and create products that do what we say they will do. Sure, you hear that message, but you rarely see it in action.

sWM: Will this skepticism lead businesses to buy certain types of technologies?

There's already a movement back to mainframe infrastructures. People are saying: "We're going to take the monolithic system, because it's simple. We're going to take the disadvantages of it. We might not have the freedom to add diverse components in the future, but we also won't have a system that bleeds money. We'd rather have half the capability at a set price."

Also, many organizations are now shifting to large homogeneous containers that manage everything. They restrict you to vendor dependency, but at least you know what you are buying, who can administer and develop for it, where to get additional components, training, advice, consultants, and so on.


searchWindowsManageability News: Web services coming soon

searchWindowsManageability News & Analysis: Look before you leap into Web services, part one

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