Web services on trial

Although it might turn out to be a useful architecture, it is doubtful that web services will turn out as useful as its promoters would have us believe. So you need to stay alert to maintain the scepticism you need.

Management Speak: You have to be more efficient.

Translation: We don’t care what — if anything — you produce as long as you work nights and weekends.

— IS Survivalist William Adams worked nights and weekends to translate this phrase for us.

The Roman general Pompey would add a grain of salt to his food, believing it counteracted poisons added by would-be assassins. Thinking himself safe, he was eventually stabbed to death.

So take what you read about web services — a technology that’s solidly in the “hype” phase of the technology life cycle (the other phases being “disillusionment” and “application”) — not with a grain of salt, but with a spoonful of salsa. Neither will prevent assassination, but at least the salsa will spice things up enough to keep you awake at night. And although it might turn out to be a useful architecture, it is doubtful that web services will turn out as useful as its promoters would have us believe. So you need to stay alert to maintain the scepticism you need.

Last week we explored some of web services’ problems, among them production scheduling. When you distribute a batch job over a bunch of computers running in other companies’ data centres and communicating at unpredictable latencies, run times become unpredictable and long.

The most straightforward technical solution is caching, which gives the user control over both computing power and network performance.

But the vendors that create the components you link together to build a web services application will want to profit from their efforts. My guess is they’ll prefer an ASP model, where customers pay based on usage. Otherwise vendors would just be renting what amounts to a subroutine library, a pretty uninteresting business and one that’s never generated the kind of wealth that attracts venture capital.

Because caching makes ASP-style billing awfully difficult, it’s probably out. What probably will work, although, is similar: you will build (or license) and install web services applications pretty much as you do with existing architectures — on your own hardware in your own data centres. When all the ASP-model web services vendors run out of venture capital, they’ll rent you their components as libraries, too. They won’t get rich, but they might stay in business that way, eventually becoming something that looks a lot like a traditional software vendor.

If it doesn’t happen this way, web services probably won’t emerge from the disillusionment stage.

Pompey, who took his food with a grain of salt, was killed in Egypt, where years later an asp killed Cleopatra, according to legend the most beautiful woman of her time. Is it just coincidence the ASP mentality might just be what kills the beautiful architecture of web services?

Okay, it’s a stretch. Complain to RDLewis@ISSurvivor.com. Lewis is president of IT Catalysts, an independent consultancy specialising in IT effectiveness and strategic alignment.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags web services

Show Comments
[]