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Web Services: New rage

Mar 11, 2002

Sometime back we had written (Read more) about the need for corporates to seamlessly integrate disparate software that cater to different business functions. Different software applications working in tandem will help monitor organisational activity real time. This would help corporates earn better returns from investments in information technology. Web services herald a new world where there would be easy communication between different software applications. Currently, the need to communicate across different programs is satisfied by using customised patches. Indian software companies like Infosys (11% of revenues) and Satyam (16%) have a notable share of the enterprise applications integration (EAI) markets. According to Gartner, building custom links between software applications occupies 60% of the time of an average programmer. The problem is that the cost of building these patches is immense.

But all that is set to change. Web Services is a platform independent and standards based technology that allows applications to interface with each other. The technology is based on a set of standards and protocols developed by the software industry.

Sun Microsystems' J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) or Microsoft's .Net are two examples of frameworks that will provide these services.

Ideally in the future, to make different applications communicate with each other, all the software engineer has to do is incorporate on a Web Service from a directory and the requirement should be implemented. This will eliminate the need to write patches as being done currently.

The value proposition lies in supply chain integration. Today integrating all the systems internal to the organisation is not enough. At one end of the supply chain are the suppliers and at the other end are the distributors. Their systems also need to communicate with that of the corporates. The promise is: Web Services could make this integration easy and more importantly, quickly.

Though it sounds very nice as a concept everything is not hunky dory. While there is a promise of interoperability and openness, it would mean loss of significant consulting and integration revenues for big vendors. Also, many services are at a superficial level and are tied to the underlying systems software on which they were written. For example, a program that works on Windows does not work on a Unix operating system. Another negative is that very basic enterprise requirements like security are not catered to by Web Services.

However, the possibilities undoubtedly excite the corporates. Being in a nascent stage it will take some time before the promise is delivered. It is not a question if Web Services will be able to deliver, but when? Many of the Indian software companies earn a significant amount of their revenues from EAI middleware integration. Web Services will significantly reduce the need for middleware. This is a wake up call before its too late.

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