Web Services Vendors See Need for Improvement

To reach potential, Web services need better security and greater standardization.

Web services are gaining momentum in the enterprise, but the leading providers agree that the technology needs several improvements, including better security and greater standardization, to reach its potential.

IBM is trying to make inroads in the small and midsized business market for Web services, according to Bob Sutor, director of Web Services Technology at the Armonk, N.Y., company. Speaking Tuesday on a panel at the Comnet Conference & Expo in Washington, Sutor said IBMs WebSphere Express products can be tailored to the smaller companies.

"To tell you the truth, youre going to get Web services anyway," Sutor said. "We have to convince you to use it."

Sutor championed IBMs ability to work with a variety of platforms so that businesses, large or small, can build on an established base. "We understand at our core that we have to run across many different platforms," he said. "The world does not run on Windows."

For its part, Microsoft Corp. is trying to bring ease of use to all of its products, including the .Net initiative, said Neil Charney, director of Microsofts Platform Strategy Group. Among the Web services "baseline standards" to date, the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) protocol isnt talked about much, but it will prove valuable in allowing users to build a services Yellow Page, he predicted.

Microsoft has hundreds of customers who are building secure Web services using Secure Sockets Layer technology, but the industry needs to further develop security standards, Charney said.

Because a secure standard is not yet in place, BEA Systems advises its Web services users to proceed cautiously with business-to-business applications, said Adam Bosworth, senior vice president and chief architect of advanced development at BEA. In his estimation, the standardization process will take at least two more years. "This time next year, you will see a lot more emphasis on security," he said.

BEA plans to release a Web services product this summer that will allow users to build "complete soup-to-nuts" applications, Bosworth said.

Oracle Corp.s approach to Web services can be distinguished from that of the other vendors approaches by way of its full support for open standards, said Ted Farrell, Oracles architect and director of the Strategy Application Development Tools Division.

"Oracles focus is supporting standards that are royalty-free," Farrell said. "The APIs are not what youre going to make your money on."