Will Web services lead IT out of the doldrums?

Will Web services lead IT out of the doldrums?

The reduced growth rate in the software industry is due not only to the increased size of the industry and the general worldwide economic downturn, but more importantly to the huge application complexity that has created increases in the cost and magnitude of integration projects.

How did we become entrapped in this complexity crisis? As responsiveness became a key business criterion, companies invested and expanded their installed bases of applications as well as suites to provide inter-application communication.

This lead to a positive feedback loop: the more you build, the more you need, the more you build, the more problems you have with integrating the existing applications. The rapid growth in content and the increase in diversity contributed to this.

Some signs of change can be found along the road. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, customers said they planned to spend about 25 per cent of their IT budgets on maintaining applications. By 2000, before the economic crunch, customers expected 80 per cent of their budgets to be consumed by maintaining existing applications.

The rise of CyberSmart Computing

Web Services offers relief from this software complexity crisis that has arisen as companies attempt to integrate their growing installed bases of applications in response to competitive pressures. IDC actually predicted the rise of this new architecture in 1985 and named it CyberSmart Computing. CyberSmart Computing was predicated on run-anywhere runtime engines (for which read Java) and the concept of “smart content” – which is really what XML is. At that time IDC predicted that by 2004 or 2005, 50 per cent of enterprises would be doing some kind of cybersmart project.

Web Services enable self describing components and content that can run anywhere via SOAP, Web Services Definition Language (WSDL) and eventually UDDI and others, and runtime engines. They use XML, ebXML and other XML variants to define the content and give it “smarts”, and have device services such as dynamic linking.

Web Services has many attractions. It is an order of magnitude less expensive than conventional ways of integrating and can be used to provide competitive advantage.

For example, IDC surveys show that more than 50 per cent of early adopters report the benefit of a reduction in overall costs and over 60 per cent had a payback within a year. These projects have not been large — initial projects are typically well under $US500,000 and even half that for subsequent projects and the typical project length is less than 6 months.

Web Services is nothing less than a disruptive technology that will replace other software technologies and will be the software platform of the future. Indeed, Web Services will usher in a disruption of the standard software business model that has existed for the last 20 years.

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