Enterprises can expect to productively implement Web services in live applications if they are prepared to make the significant investments, along with the cultural changes that the effort requires, said David Smith, vice president and research fellow at Gartner Inc.
Speaking at Gartners Application Integration & Web Services Summit here, Smith said enterprises can use existing technology and standards to build what Gartner has dubbed service-oriented business applications (SOBAs).
These applications use the standard Web Services protocols SOAP, (Simple Object Access Protocol), BPEL (Business Process Execution Language), the UDDI (Universal Description, Discover and Integration) standard and WSDL (Web Services Description Language).
Smith predicted that SOBAs will emerge as "the mainstream business application architecture" by 2007. SOBAs are already being used among small groups of trading partners and within the bounds of a single enterprises business applications. But Smith predicted that they will become widely used in enterprise supply chains.
Enterprises that are working to deploy Web services or are at least considering it have to understand that they are riding the waves of the "hype cycle"—which oscillates through a predictable pattern of market hype, customer disillusionment and recognition of true potential benefits, Smith said.
The Web services sector is working up to its third hype peak since the technology emerged in the late 1990s, Smith noted. The next peak, focused on SOBAs, should arrive by early next year, he said.
Such applications are going to go beyond the simple, tried and true Web services applications such as online stock-market reports, news headlines and weather reports that were used to test the capabilities of the technology, Smith said.
The new focus, he said, will be on high-value business applications that either have to process high data volumes—such as credit-card validation, order status, inventory and Social Security benefits—or that have to process complex proprietary code and business algorithms, such as loan risk assessment.
The next step will be hybrid Web services applications that have to process a combination of complex proprietary algorithms and high-volume proprietary data, such as express shipment tracking, he said.
The next five years will be a period of intense Web services development. Enterprises that havent acquired Web services experience by 2009 wont be able to implement efficient new business processes and could find themselves at a competitive disadvantage, Smith said.
But security will be a major concern among companies deploying Web services. Smith predicted that by 2008, at least 30 percent of the companies that have deployed Web services applications will fall victim to successful hacker attacks "causing more than four hours of downtime to business-critical functions."
Smith said security, which is currently based on Kerberos, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and public-key infrastructure, will improve over the next five years, as developers learn how to counter the latest attack strategies and as emerging standards such as WS-Security and Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) are more widely deployed.