Making Sense of Service Providers - Page 4

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xSPs (Web Services)

Exploring the use of service providers is not the same thing as making a bleeding-edge commitment to the technology of Web services, as exemplified by Microsoft Corp.s .Net framework and by other offerings from IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Web service technologies are still largely unsupported by all but prerelease versions of application development tools. (Borland Software Corp.s Delphi is a notable exception, with its high- level aids for encapsulating and abstracting the complexities of XML-based data exchange and service invocation.)

A mid-October report from Gartner Inc. predicts that Web services will increase enterprise application development efficiency 30 percent by 2005. However, Gartner recommends only pilot projects during the coming year, with initial focus on migrating internal development efforts to the Web service model of dynamic connection between distributed processes.

Financial services companies will be the first to adopt Web service technologies for intercompany operations, the Gartner report predicts, because these companies already have an infrastructure of authentication and reputation networks that can readily be translated to emerging Web service protocols.

It would be a mistake to wait for the Web service technology environment to settle down before exploring xSP options, in the same way that it would have been a mistake for a retailer to wait for the emergence of toll-free telephone numbers and e-mail before getting into catalog sales.

Yes, Web service technologies will expand the variety and efficiency of xSP offerings, but the one is not the precursor to the other.