Web Services: Hurdling the Hype

Ours is an economy of hype. Vendors produce it.Infomediaries distribute it. And unfortunately,corporations and consumers often buy it.

The hype swirling around Web services these days hasmany companies perplexed. Is this another hollowpromise of riches for all? Or is this a technologydeserving of our attention and our ever-thinning IT budgets?

With bruises still smarting from the technologymeltdown, we no longer passively accept shovelfuls ofNew Economy hype. On the other hand, corporationscan’t afford to place innovation on a moratorium.

If you’re not confused, you should be.

But I’ve noticed some beacons standing above the Webservices build-up that bode well for the burgeoningtechnology.

Building Buzz

The year 2001 officially ushered in Web services asthe new darling of e-business. Put simply, Webservices are software applications that cancommunicate with each other seamlessly over theInternet regardless of platform, relying largely onXML-based technologies.

They can be as complex as inventory management andcustomer service applications or as simple asreal-time news and stock portfolio services.

Follow the Leaders

So, what are e-business managers to make of Webservices in these uncertain economic times?

As more analysts herald the promising collaborationcapabilities of Web services, vendor pitches arebeginning to echo each other, adding to the deafeningdin.

I’m no better at clairvoyance than most industryforecasters, but I would advise IT budget overseers totake their cues from some of the world’s most established corporations, which are investingsignificantly in Web services.

Boeing’s Big Bet

For instance, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, part of aerospace giant Boeing Company (NYSE: BA), recently purchased enterprise software licenses from Web servicesintegration vendor IONA.

IONA’s Orbix E2A Web Services Integration Platformallows for dynamic data exchange, business processautomation and composite applications.

Sound like every other Web Services pitch you’veheard?

At this stage, that’s okay. Chances are that your boss ismore concerned with legitimizing Web services as aviable investment area than with selecting any one vendorover another.

The world’s largest aerospace company may enjoy morefinancial safety nets than your company, but Boeing’sforays into Web services should at least elevate thetechnology above fad status.

Hype Machine

Be sure to watch early adopters such as Boeing very closely. Soon enough, their results will build the evidence that will either corroborate or refute the hype.

Alongside Boeing are other companies such as BritishTelecom (BT), whose investments in Web services shouldfurther validate the technology — or at least induce athorough investigation of the area.

BT is working with Cape ClearSoftware to develop Web services that willintegrate its many disparate business applications andextend them to the Internet.

Small World

Interoperability challenges within vast multinationalcompanies such as Boeing and British Telecom make themideal proving grounds for Web services.

But if you want to add medium-scale evidence to yourhype-free case study folder, take a look at Dollar Rent A Car(NYSE: DTG).

The company built a Web service that allows travelerswho purchase tickets from SouthwestAirlines to add on a car rental withoutleaving Southwest’s Web site.

Pilot Program

Early Web services implementations such as thiscontribute to a collective pilot program that willtest and prove the technology.

While the hype surrounding Web services may soon reachproportions comparable to the bygone portal era, manytime-tested companies are betting that Web serviceswill deliver where preceding technologies havefaltered.

For more signs pointing to a favorable future for Webservices, you need only glance at the list of chartermembers of the Liberty Alliance Project.

The consortium, devoted to managing users’ onlineidentities on a Web services-based Internet, has earnedthe support of such category leaders as AOL TimeWarner (NYSE: AOL), General Motors (NYSE: GM), Sony (NYSE: SNE), and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HWP).

These votes of confidence should embolden e-businessmanagers to overlook the hype and examine thepotential rewards — not just the risks — of investing in Web services.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.


Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


1 Comment

  • I agree with Mark’s assessment of the Web services space.

    Moreover, I think it’s been slow in taking off so far because, although evolutionary, the dot-com meltdown has caused CIOs and CTOs to take some time to assess these disruptive technologies and ensure they’re taking the right decision in adopting them.

    Recent early adopters like Boeing and BT should help other large players cut through the hype.

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