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Web Services Spread Slowly Into IT

But more work needs to be done to address architectural, process and security issues.

By Heather Havenstein
January 24, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Dade County, Fla., has more than 40 Web services in production that are used to integrate data to build citizen-facing applications, like those for online fee payment and access to building-inspection reports.

In November, Dade County rolled out the first release of a call center application built to provide answers to common questions through Web services interfaces to criminal justice, waste management and public works back-end systems, said Carmen Suarez, systems support manager at the county's enterprise technology services department.

Dade County is one of a growing number of organizations that have successfully lassoed Web services as a way to link dissimilar systems more quickly and cost-effectively than they could with traditional, hard-coded integration. Now, many are attempting to address the architectural changes required to exploit Web services to develop flexible applications that can be changed as business requirements evolve.

Web services emerged in the midst of the IT recession during the early 2000s as a way to integrate systems using standards—Simple Object Access Protocol, Web Services Description Language and the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration specification—along with key XML technology.

The Web services concept was slow to make its way to corporate IT operations because vendors debated the path of the standards. But the demand for such capabilities forced a peace among rival vendors and led to IT efforts to take advantage of Web services, despite architectural and security challenges.

For example, the state of Wisconsin last year used Web services to integrate six procurement systems in less than two weeks, according to CIO Matt Miszewski. And Navitaire Inc., a Minneapolis-based application service provider that houses reservation systems for low-cost airlines, expects to slash infrastructure costs in half by leveraging application development tools and Web services in Microsoft Corp.'s .Net platform to migrate its applications. Navitaire is migrating to .Net from the HP3000 system, which Hewlett-Packard Co. stopped selling last year.

Wisconsin CIO Matt Miszewski
Wisconsin CIO Matt Miszewski
Image Credit: David Nevala

Almost two-thirds of all major Web services deployments today are focused on integration projects, according to research firm Gartner Inc. And analysts are forecasting that 40% of all business software purchased in 2007 will be Web-services-enabled. With that in mind, some companies are embarking on a path toward the Holy Grail of Web services—reusing business processes to build composite applications. But as they do, some are running into architectural challenges.
For example, Dade County is trying to find a way to manage Web services and create a directory for developers to access Web services for reuse in future applications.

"I am looking for a way to manage the change that will be involved with the Web services," Suarez said. The county needs to be able to "monitor performance and understand relationships between Web services and back-end systems," she added.

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