Taking up the web services challenge

The year 2001 witnessed horrific events and called a halt to 10 years of unprecedented economic growth, but it also spawned a number of technological innovations that are only just now beginning to take root.

The year 2001 witnessed horrific events and called a halt to 10 years of unprecedented economic growth, but it also spawned a number of technological innovations that are only just now beginning to take root.

The most important of those innovations has been web services, but the question that remains for 2002 is how these discrete pieces of software components will proliferate through the enterprise. Management of web services has been overlooked in all the fanfare, and yet it will make all the difference in the world in terms of web services continuing as an industry phenomenon.

Fortunately this year will see a number of companies step up to fill the void. Probably the most recognised names in this space are Computer Associates and IBM. Both of these companies are dominant forces in the systems management arena, so it’s only natural that they will seek to extend their dominance in this area to web services. CA, for example, plans to architect a suite of tools that will be capable of spanning both J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and .Net environments. IBM has yet to discuss its strategy in this area, but is expected to pursue a similar path.

Whereas these companies are dominant in this area today, others see web services as an opportunity to extend their franchise. Sun, for example, is quietly developing a strategy that will extend the systems management capabilities of its Solaris operating system to create a network-based operating environment capable of managing all the elements of a distributed computing environment — including web services — regardless of what platform upon which those elements are running.

Others, however, see web services as something that requires specific core competency in software change management. Interwoven, for example, will leverage its code management tools and content management system to create an infrastructure that will automate the distribution and management of web services. For companies such as Interwoven, the management and distribution of web services is very similar to the challenges it faces managing content deployment across the enterprise. In a similar vein, companies such as Serena, Rational Software and Merant will look to expand the appeal of their code management tools to a broader base of business and IT managers.

And then there are the dark-horse startup companies that see this area as one requiring dedicated expertise that does not try to carry forward legacy baggage. One such company is Infravio, which is building a web services management infrastructure from scratch. Its point of view is that web services are a new style of computing that require new approaches to management.

It’s too early to say who is right in this debate because the problem is too complex; the proof will have to be in the pudding.

Michael Vizard is editor in chief of InfoWorld. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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More about CA TechnologiesIBM AustraliaInfravioInterwovenMerantMichael VizardRational Software

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