Web Services Projected to Dominate Integration

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About four out of 10 Web services developers believe that Web services will more than likely diminish the need for enterprise application integration in the future, a new Evans Data Corp. study shows. More than half of the survey respondents also think Web services can drive cost savings in standard EAI implementations.

“Our developers are fairly optimistic because they’re starting to work with the technology,” Evans Data Analyst Joe McKendrick said. “In recent years, it was more of a developer thing. Developers were kind of kicking the tires—experimenting, piloting and maybe building point-to-point type of Web services interfaces. Organizations are getting deeper into Web services. The ball is rolling, but we’re looking five to 10 years out before it’s a reality.”


The Evans Data report, “Fall 2004 Web Services/SOA Development Survey,” had input from 427 respondents from around the world, the majority of whom were from North America, McKendrick said. About half of participants had a management background—including project leaders, development managers and IT managers—and half were development professionals, generally programmers, analysts and software architects.


“There are a lot of legacy systems out there now,” said McKendrick, referring to mainframes and older versions of UNIX, Windows and Linux. “The challenge has been that a lot of the data and applications associated with mission-critical systems sits on a lot of different platforms. Especially in large companies, data may be sitting on several different machines throughout the organization. You may have four different mainframe systems with four different versions of the truth, four different files for the same customer. There’s a need to be able to build some type of application that quickly accesses all these different data sources and brings that data into one place.”


“The goal of enterprise application integration has been to build some kind of composite application, an application that may even mimic a process or application on the mainframe in the back-end that can maintain the mainframe as a data repository, while enabling front-end users to utilize a more modern application; typically, this has been a very tough job,” McKendrick said. “EAI has always been expensive, and continues to be fairly expensive.” He added that to accomplish this, businesses usually have to bring in an outside consultant or firm to spend several months building a new application that can tap into these back-end systems. Nonetheless, even with expert assistance, it still can be difficult to replicate a business process that is 20 years old, even if it works well on a mainframe.


There currently is a focus in Web services on service-oriented architecture (SOA), in which services are arranged in a variety of configurations, not unlike Lego blocks, McKendrick said. Some of these “blocks” include XML, Web services description language (WSDL) and universal description, discovery and integration (UDDI). Many Web services developers have used SOA for Web site construction or peripheral functions, but few have applied it to mission critical tasks—yet.


“It’s going to take some time for this to evolve,” McKendrick said. “If you can build an application that supports messaging with another application using these standards, and the second application also supports these standards, there’s really no need to build a third application to hook the two together. The two applications can automatically talk to each other. A lot of the applications being shipped nowadays support Web services standards. Most applications out there are not Web-services-enabled, though. Eventually, we’re going to see a shift to the point where most of the applications in a company’s inventory may be Web-services-enabled, and they’ll be able to talk to each other.”


Because Web services have the potential to streamline and drive down costs of overall business operations by reusing and redeploying components, saving developer time and increasing developer productivity, organizations that figure out how to utilize them will have a major advantage over competitors that do not.


“There’s more of an impetus now to implement more Web services against mission-critical applications,” McKendrick said. “The challenge is getting the message to higher levels of the organization.”


For more information, see http://www.evansdata.com/n2/pr/releases/EDCWS04_02.shtml.

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