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Developers will take a back seat to the business side

When it comes to Web services in 2004, the spotlight on developers will fade as business decision makers begin to take control of these projects.

While pondering what 2004 may bring, I reviewed my Web services forecast from last year. I had predicted vendors lining up to support Web services during 2003, and we've certainly seen a steady stream of enthusiastic backing from major players like IBM and Microsoft, all the way down to the small pure-play vendors.

I had also warned you to expect more spats between major vendors, and we witnessed IBM and Microsoft lining up against Sun and Oracle several times over standards proposals. I went out on a limb when I predicted increased mergers and acquisitions. Many experts at that time didn't agree, but we saw a fair amount of consolidation in 2003.

"OK," I can hear you say, "so much for last year's predictions. What about 2004?" Here we go:

  • One prediction I make with certainty is that you're going to see the term "service-oriented" tossed around so often in 2004 that, if you're not already sick of this phrase, you soon will be. Consider it the hot buzz term for 2004.
  • It's true that many companies have only just started research or are in the early planning stages for Web services projects. But not everyone has been quietly twiddling their thumbs. Expect to see some highly sophisticated uses of Web services rolled out by well-known players by mid-2004.
  • OASIS will become the preeminent standards body in the Web services world. The group's influence and favored role shall become increasingly apparent as it initiates important standards work, and as third parties repeatedly submit new standards proposals to OASIS instead of the W3C.
  • The developer spotlight will begin to dim, as emphasis is refocused on the business end of Web services. Expect headway beyond opportunistic Web services, as businesses seek a more systematic, less ad hoc approach.
  • Expect a flood of ink in the press about Microsoft's latest vaporware, Indigo. Microsoft has a lot riding on this communications component, and strong developer support is critical. Expect to see a lot of drum-beating, previews and beta tools coming out of Redmond.
  • Java 2 Enterprise Edition 1.4 has recently been made available for download. The new J2EE features strong support for developing, deploying and managing Web services. A year ago, this would have been big news.
  • The attractiveness of so-called on-demand computing and grid computing initiatives will help bolster the development and adoption of Web services. Web services will be a crucial component in any true utility computing model.

What are some of my worries for 2004? One thing that makes me uncomfortable is the current trend of independent standards bodies joining the WS-I. Recently, OASIS, OMG, OAGI and POSC all announced their memberships.

To borrow from poet Rudyard Kipling, "Oh, vendor is vendor, and standards body is standards body, and never the twain shall meet." This joining has the potential to accelerate Web services as never before -- or spell doom for the best path to true interoperability. Keep a jaundiced eye on this and similar developments.

Happy New Year's, and good luck to all of you with your Web services projects in 2004.


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