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Report: Web services evolving business

An Irish research firm hails the evolution of Web services as a revolution for business.

A recently released research report predicts that it won't be too long before enterprises can access full-featured software suites through Web Services.

The report, "The State of the Web Services Marketplace," published by Dublin, Ireland-based analyst firm Research and Markets, said Web services will evolve to the point where multiple applications will interact seamlessly from within a portal.

As Web services evolve, end users will be able to fully automate their business processes by accessing Web-based software suites that cater to purchasing, distribution, forecasting, financials, supply chain management and more, the report said.

With Web services, the primary goal is to eliminate the use of the proprietary interface. Fundamentally, what they're tying to do is reduce the cost of integration.
Jason Bloomberg
Senior analystZapThink LLC

Brian Koma, president of Stratagem Partnering, Inc., another research and consulting firm in San Francisco, Calif., agreed that Web services will one day evolve to this point. But today many companies are still in the infant stages of Web services -- accessing one application via the Web.

Koma's company recently conducted 18 one-on-one interviews with senior level IT professionals, all of whom work for companies that earn at least $1 billion in revenue annually.

"When we asked them what their priorities were for the last 12 months, 12 to 15 people said that they were migrating legacy applications to the Web," Koma said. "This was a big priority for them."

Rob Manson, IT director for the Hingham, Mass.-based MIS, said that because his company is customer-service oriented, it has labored during the last five years to make older applications available via the Web. Today, he said, the process is still ongoing.

"Integrated legacy is a major push," Manson said.

Manson said he wasn't sure if his company would take the next step beyond Web services, and transform its infrastructure into a service-oriented architecture complete with utility computing capability.

"It seems like it would be a lot easier but the cost of hardware and (personal computers)… is so minimal these days" that it might not be worth it, Manson said.

The Research and Markets report says that the main reason for the continued adoption of Web services is that they use standard Internet protocols to support application to application interaction. Other popular Web applications, such as e-mail and instant messaging, support human-to-human communication. Web browsers support human-to-application interaction.

The report also said that Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) applications have been successful in some similar "point-to-point" integration efforts. But, the report said, EAI programs have drawbacks. They are complex, expensive to implement, and they rely on proprietary technologies, which can make interaction with outside applications a cumbersome process.

Web services, on the other hand can integrate applications running on disparate platforms, and offer a low cost way to expose business applications to new interfaces.

"With Web services, the primary goal is to eliminate the use of the proprietary interface," said Jason Bloomberg, an research analyst with ZapThink LLC in Waltham, Mass. "Fundamentally, what they're tying to do is reduce the cost of integration."

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