Connect, transact, analyze and correct. following a cross-country jaunt that took me from Boston to Raleigh to San Jose last week while digging into the status of Web services, I found those four terms seem to do a decent job at getting to the basics of what this services business will become. I say "will become" because it is clear, after some late nights and lots of bad airline food, that this Web services business is in the pre-prebeta stage.
Of course, being in the early stages hasnt stopped the vendors, the analysts and, yes, even the journalists from taking a murky subject and throwing in enough acronyms to make it incomprehensible. While there is Microsofts .Net, which includes a framework, servers, orchestration, Passport and a C# programming language, Redmond has not been alone in piling on the white papers and acronyms way ahead of any actual product. You have the XML standard underlying everything and SOAP to provide the rules for tying stuff together and UDDI to find what services businesses are offering. And DISCO, WSDL and JUMP. No wonder that—especially in these days when the stock market, the IT community and the economy are suffering tech exhaustion—it is difficult to summon the energy to understand what Web services are all about.
What the services are all about is building an efficient business that uses open standards and a Web-based platform. The efficiencies come from being able to use the best suppliers, making your company operate as seamlessly as possible and conducting business with your customers in a manner that makes you a valued partner. When it works well, it will be invisible in its operation. And your decision to design under the .Net architecture, IBMs WebSphere, Oracles Dynamic Services, Hewlett-Packards e-services or any of the other contenders will be a fundamental business and technological decision. Once you start affiliating with one companys service offering, it becomes very difficult to change directions.
And that is why it is worth the time to investigate what Web services can mean for your company. Even if the budget has been cut, you should be able to draw a road map of how the services could change your computing infrastructure. Which brings us to the four words that started this column.
All the acronym badminton still resides largely in developing connections that will facilitate Web services and developing an architecture that will allow business transactions once the connections are made. Services that provide analysis of business structures using those connections and transactions are still future thinking. Products that allow you to tune your services based on that analysis are further out yet. And business applications that propel Web services from nice ideas to must-haves wont come about until you connect, transact, analyze and correct your business all under the services umbrella.