Web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA) may not be mainstream until 2008 the way some research firms see it, but more enterprises are putting them into production and reaping the benefits of code reuse.
A recent TechTarget survey of more than 950 IT managers asked how important Web services were to a company's IT strategy. Respondents were asked to rate Web services on a 1-to-5 scale with 5 being mission critical. The average response was 3.07, a sizeable jump from 2002's 2.43.
As Web services inch toward mission critical status, the profile of companies currently using them either internally, or across the firewall to partners, suppliers and customers runs the gamut.
" Our projects are in production and are a critical aspect of our service delivery. Without the Web services projects, our field consultants would be greatly inhibited in the level of tech support they can provide," said Ward Thrasher, a division manager with DigiTech LLC of Farmington, Conn. " Because we are knowledgeable workers, Web services enables us to deliver content quickly to the parties who need it to perform their jobs."
At the Gartner Inc. Application Integration &Web Services Summit last month in Los Angeles, research directors described a wildly shifting development landscape that began last year and will extend into 2008.
"In 2003, applications are built from scratch or bought. Projects generally take eight to 12 months with no code reuse and too much cost involved," said Mike Blechar, vice president of Gartner's application development division. "By 2008, the focus will be on workflow, functionality and process, not application stovepipes."
SOAs using Web services standards are being promoted not only by research firms, but by big vendors like IBM Corp., BEA Systems Inc., SAP AG and many others as a means of experiencing maximum efficiency from development. These vendors have a spate of products and services available to facilitate a migration to an SOA or maintain a current deployment.
"It's about deployment of applications, not development," said Gartner vice president Matt Hotle. "It's about assembling more composite service-oriented business applications. Projects will average one to three months [in 2008], and a reuse culture will be accepted where code will be well used and developers well incented. Service-oriented development applications dominate.
Some companies like Motorola Inc. have more than 100 Web services in production, and according to Toby Redshaw, vice president of IT strategy, the company is experiencing -five times to 10 times performance and efficiency gains.
Others like Debenhams Retail LLC of London are making money from their outwardly exposed Web services.
"The biggest benefit is increased revenue," said Mark Aggleton, an IT manager at Debenhams. "One version of the truth with suppliers and more manageability. Internal systems have reduced the need for staff in some areas and made staff more self accountable. Our development role has changed -- some retraining and some new blood were necessary. In general, they were happy to be learning new skills."
The TechTarget survey results continue climbing, enterprises will have to use Java and .NET technologies, which could introduce new training costs to the equation.
"CIOs have to have a transition strategy," Belchar said. "J2EE and Enterprise Java Beans are not just for leading edge companies anymore."