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Is it time to invest in Web services management?

Experts offer advice on when enterprises should take the leap and invest in software that automates the management of Web services.

Management is prominent among the trinity of CIO concerns about Web services. It doesn't quite measure up to security and interoperability, but it is a growing concern as more enterprises consume and make Web services available internally and across the firewall to business partners, customers and suppliers.

The question is, however, are enterprises progressing enough with Web services projects to justify the expense of a management solution?

Web services guru Bob Sutor of IBM recently told that implementations are in "early mainstream phase" and, as companies begin accumulating 10, 15 or 20 Web services, they're going to need an automated means of monitoring them.

Companies that build up a portfolio of services require management tools.
Mike Gilpin
Vice president, research director

"Avoiding the introduction of Web service-specific monitoring tools into your environment is akin to removing the existing solution," said consultant David Schneier of Cow Harbor Computing of Northport, N.Y. "If you can't keep an eye on all critical components, why bother watching any of them?"

While they may not be an immediate necessity, they will be an inevitability for most enterprises. ZapThink LLC senior analyst Ron Schmelzer said that, because Web services rely on an underlying infrastructure and network, they must be monitored --otherwise, the integrity of the service is in jeopardy.

"Companies using a service-oriented architecture (SOA) are leveraging services on a network, and that service abstracts the underlying system -- be it a database server or an application server," Schmelzer said. "If something goes wrong with the service or the system, the problem can rapidly daisy chain."

Most of the early Web services adopters are already investing in management software, particularly those adopters in financial services, manufacturing other industries where applications are linked and critical or sensitive data is exchanged.

"Companies that build up a portfolio of services require management tools," said Mike Gilpin, a vice president and research director at Forrester Research Inc. "Generally, when you build a second service-oriented application and hook it to the first, you need to manage it because it becomes a cross-organizational issue."

Forrester said that 50% of enterprises are doing some kind of Web services project and 35% are in production. Gilpin said some companies, which he calls "Type A," have been tinkering with Web services for three to four years and have several applications in production. Type Bs started using Web services last year and are now putting their first applications into production. Then there are the "laggards" that are not using Web services or are not aware that they are using them.

"Web services are definitely the way to the future, but [the technology] will take its own time to get there," said N. Shekar, CEO and founder of consultancy Vergil Technology Ltd., in Chennai, India. "We give another 12 to 24 months before they become mainstream. Web services [will] become so ubiquitous that [the technology] will not be seen separately as it is today, and the measure of success will be when it becomes a utility, such as a telephone or electricity."

Market leaders right now are confined to a handful of startups and periphery interest from big management leaders like Computer Associates International Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM. Smaller companies like Actional Corp., AmberPoint Inc., Digital Evolution Inc., Blue Titan Software, Infravio and others are competing against the service-level management offerings found in OpenView, Unicenter and Tivoli.

"The startups are definitely filling a gap for Web services management," Schmelzer said. "However, in the long term, where will companies get management capabilities from? There will still be some startups emerging this year, but the rest, we think, will be acquired by integration or process firms. Expect a lot of flux."

Shekar concurs.

"It is too early to make Web services mission-critical or enterprise-ready ... . Some heavy hitters [are needed] to monitor and manage Web services," he said. "The big players are definitely taking cautious steps in supporting Web services at enterprise levels. Many Web services management-only-focused startups are not doing well or have exited the space already."

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