Services Siren Songs Demand New Harmonies

Integrating new technologies with old is a critical challenge for developers and site managers.

The past week at eWEEK Labs has focused on assembling our forthcoming report, to be published a week from today, on the winners and finalists in our Fifth Annual Excellence Awards (for which we briefly announced the names of the finalists last week). As I said here a week ago, this years contenders are an outstanding field of products that in many cases almost defy categorization: Many of them are, as one might say, symphonies or at least chamber quartets of infrastructure innovation rather than simple tunes.

The question, when one plays innovative music, is whether it will find a positive reception--or whether people will find it too difficult to harmonize with the tunes that are already running through their heads. We see that kind of inertia, perhaps, in a report released today (although actually dated tomorrow) estimating that only a quarter of Windows XP desktop installations in North America corporations have upgraded to SP2, despite its substantial improvements to operational security.

Its clear that a product gets a real leg up on enterprise acceptance when it goes out of its way to avoid a discordant clash of old and new technology. Thats certainly one of the common strengths in our eWEEK Excellence finalists for Analytics and Reporting tools. In alphabetic order by vendor name, that trio consists of Cognos Enterprise Planning, Composite Information Server and Informatica PowerExchange. All three put a priority on integrating well with existing IT environments, in some cases with emphasis on eclectic input and in others with many options for delivery of results. None of them is a "rip and replace" proposition, which today I believe would be an almost impossible drawback to overcome in the pursuit of Excellence honors.

That harmonization of old technologies with new demands, and with new tools that address them, will also continue to be a challenge for the Internet as a whole. The Internets Domain Name System, for example, deserves the continuing scrutiny that it receives as one of the important usability tools of the Net that is also one of its strategic vulnerabilities. A National Research Council report on DNS probably wont contain any surprises for readers of this newsletter, but it provides a management-level explanation of DNS issues that may be useful in conveying the problems to business unit managers and business process owners. This may provide further justification for efforts to get away from traditional users-with-browsers delivery models of Web presence, moving instead to more of an application-to-application approach.

Meanwhile, high-profile tasks such as income-tax filing continue to place Web services in the spotlight of small-business and individual awareness. Just as the advent of Touch-Tone telephone "dialing" technology opened the door to new generations of telephone-based services in the late 1960s, the addition of a Web services vocabulary to the 1990s Web of HTML pages continues to expand the networks possibilities. Lets hope that the resulting harmonies are more pleasing than Touch-Tone songs.

Tell me what kinds of harmony youd like to find in Web development at


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