Panel Touts Web Services Role in Integration

Panel says primary use of Web services today is integration.

Right now Web services are all about integration, and customers want a single standard they can depend on, so said a panel of experts at a recent Harvard technology event.

At the Harvard Business School Cybersposium this weekend leading vendors and a key customer organization said the primary use of Web services today is for integration. In addition, Tony Scott, the chief technology officer at General Motors Corp., said: "The world has changed over the last three years. We are very supportive of the kinds of efforts IBM and Microsoft are doing [in Web services]. We want one standard."

Scott represented the customer role on a panel about Web services.

Regarding the value of Web services for integration, Scott said, "look at the cost of doing custom integration and you compare that with middleware or something else—thats the easy sell [for Web services]."

Steven Lewis, general manager of .Net Market development at Microsoft Corp., said all the major companies and governments are "struggling with the integration issue." Added Lewis: "Look at the growth in technical services and the time it takes [to do integration]—its not pretty. It can take 18 months to three years to do integration."

However, Web services can cut deeply into the time required to integrate systems, he said.

Rod Smith, the vice president of emerging technologies in IBM Corp.s Software Group, said "the integration point has changed from the vendor to the customer." Smith added that interoperability is key. "If we cant show as an industry that this [Web services] really works then this is interesting technology behind the firewall, but it doesnt go further than that."

GMs Scott said he hopes Web services will not only help with integration, but will also help reduce complexity, improve software quality and lower software costs for customers.

Aneel Bhusri, general partner with Greylock Partners, Waltham, Mass., said a few years ago that he thought Web services were over-hyped, "but Id argue now that Web services are under hyped." However, he said the deep involvement of "IBM and Microsoft has taken away some of the startup opportunity."

Microsofts Lewis then touted his companys wares. "The reason people choose Microsoft is they get much more in the box that they dont have to add or put together." This gives Microsoft an advantage over the "L word" or Linux, he said. It also gives Microsoft a lead over Sun Microsystems. "Suns not here, and it shouldnt be surprising," he said, evoking amusement from the packed audience.

Rose ODonnell, vice president of engineering at Portsmouth, N.H.-based Bowstreet Inc., said, "Web services allows you flexibility so you can deal with people the way they want."

Scott said GM has been able to do several things with Web services using the companys existing applications as the foundation. He said GM built its Smart Auction system for selling cars that come back to the company off of leases. Web services empower that application, he said.