Web Services and the Rest of the Story

Tyler McDaniel, Director

Application Strategies
Web Services and the Rest of the Story

With all the possible visions that Web Services might become, enterprises are challenged to understand and plan for the future. Leading Web Services vendors have compelling plans and products in line for the next generation of computing. The market has just begun to get a taste of what the future of Web Services might look like, but in the forward glimpse, what has become of current legacy application assets?

How legacy application investments fit into any one of the possible Web Services visions is perhaps even more of a challenge for most enterprises to understand. Here are some of the factors to consider:

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The Y2K budget outlay aimed at keeping the legacy world healthy for the new millennium

The large army of COBOL programmers still developing and maintaining mission-critical applications

The years of business logic built into the legacy systems that make them the lifeblood of enterprises

The deeply engrained business processes and cultural practices that have developed around legacy applications

If your enterprise identifies with any of these points, you might well be looking around for some kind of legacy alchemy that will transform yesterday's COBOL application (lead) into tomorrow's Web Services (gold).

However, a few brave and stalwart providers of software are precisely aimed at creating Web Services gold from legacy lead. Companies such as Micro Focus, SEEC, and Relativity Technologies all have a clear-cut strategy for enabling enterprises to leverage legacy investments all the way to Web Services.

THE HURWITZ TAKE: Hurwitz Group notes that the majority of Web Services visions deftly omit a pathway for incorporating legacy investments into the new frontier. Is this an oversight or simply the "I wouldn't touch that with a ten-foot pole" mentality? With such a high percentage of the legacy applications still running mission-critical business processes, perhaps this oversight is just a missed opportunity to solve a tough, but real market problem.

Enterprises should be advised that there are a number of approaches for transforming legacy applications and that not all approaches are equal. Screen scraping and putting web front-ends on legacy applications or using messaging middleware to the mainframe are two choices. Mining the business logic resident in a legacy application and then componentizing the logic for use in a Web Services architecture is a drastically different approach. The key is aligning business goals with a technology approach that will provide the best means for achieving success.

As for the vendors squarely focused on creating Web Services from legacy applications, the landscape has undergone a change of late. Subject to shareholder approval, Merant will sell the Micro Focus business unit to Golden Gate Capital and Parallax Capital Partners. Micro Focus will operate independently and aggressively move forward on serving the on-going needs for the COBOL world in its efforts for new development, transformation, and connectivity with new architectures, such as J2EE and Web Services.

Hurwitz Group believes that no Web Services strategy is complete without a solid plan for utilizing legacy assets. Lead into gold might have been a myth, but legacy to Web Services is a reality.

Copyright 2002 Hurwitz Group Inc. This article is excerpted from TrendWatch, a weekly publication of Hurwitz Group Inc. - an analyst, research, and consulting firm. To register for a free email subscription, click here.

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