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Developers herald promise of Web services

An Evans Data Corp. survey reports that Web services has gained favor in the enterprise, but cautions that management buy-in and other common IT obstacles apply to Web services as well.

Developers are seeing more resources devoted to Web services and are trumpeting the ensuing productivity and business gains, but caution that management buy-in remains an obstacle, as are many of the same issues that hamper traditional development.

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More than 500 were surveyed in May by software development research firm Evans Data Corp., of Santa Cruz, Calif. Analyst Joe McKendrick said in the Web Services Development Survey that Web services are the "long-sought glue that can bind applications and data across corporate departments or across industries."

Forty percent of the respondents said greater productivity in the form of code reuse, cost reductions and legacy integration are the biggest benefits from using Web services. Thirty-five percent, meanwhile, said Web services have a big impact on business by addressing either internal or customer, partner or supplier demand and eventually increasing revenues.

Spending on Web services continues to head upward, with 13% of respondents saying that more than half of their development budgets were devoted to Web services. That number is up from 11% last year, and more budget is expected to be devoted to Web services in 2005.

SSL is gaining a new role, as 70% of respondents expect to use the security mechanism for Web services interactions as well.
Joe McKendrick
AnalystEvans Data Corp.

Things aren't perfect in the world of Web services. Competing standards bodies and specifications have left developers divided on whether this will hurt Web services. Half of the respondents, for example, said they'd ever heard of the WSDL (Web Services Description Language) spec. WSDL is an XML-based language used to describe the services a business offers and to provide a way for individuals and other businesses to access those services electronically, according to online encyclopedia whatis.com. It is the cornerstone of UDDI, an XML-based Web services registry.

Three of four respondents, meanwhile, said management is usually reluctant to buy into Web services projects citing cost and ignorance of Web services. Security remains one of the biggest hurdles to Web services adoption.

As more Web services are making their way across firewalls, developers cite user authentication as their biggest security worry, followed by the ability to maintain confidentiality in transactions.

Developers, meanwhile, are relying more and more on SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to help secure Web services interactions. Analyst McKendrick, however, said SSL is not adequate security by itself because it lacks the audit trail required for business-to-business transactions and to meet regulatory requirements.

"SSL was originally designed for business-to-consumer transactions on the Internet," said Evans Data analyst Joe McKendrick. "However, SSL is gaining a new role, as 70% of respondents expect to use the security mechanism for Web services interactions as well."

Most will use SSL in conjunction with XML Encryption and XML Digital Signatures, according to the survey. Twenty-seven percent of respondents also said they would follow the WS-Security specification.

Other highlights:

  • Windows remains the favorite development platform for 80% of respondents;
  • Developers, however, are divided equally between Java, J2EE and .NET as a Web services architectures;
  • Seven of 10 respondents said support for multiple operating systems is more important than support for multiple languages. "A significant nod to the role of JVM," the report said;
  • One of five developers said they are building Web services that support wireless networks. Three of five said they don't expect to be building wireless Web services in the next year;
  • Business processes are the top service being developed. Data management is also a coveted service. Forty percent, meanwhile, said they will focus on new Web services applications;
  • Close to half of respondents said their Web services are being used internally, and 20% said they have no external Web services;
  • Two-thirds said they use IDEs for Web services development. Microsoft dominates toolkits, including the .NET and the Web Services Enhancements toolkit;
  • One-third of respondents said Document/Literal messaging is the most common messaging style, primarily because it is the default in ASP.NET.

News writer Jack Loftus contributed to this report.

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