The Web Services Tsunami

Already, Web services are being used internally and externally. IT may never be the same.

Ok, I admit it: I don't really know whether Web services will transform IT as we know it -- or flop.

For one thing, Web services are based on standards, which is a good thing, except that standards have a way of getting bogged down or fragmented or polluted and then fading away.

Plus, there are serious security issues when exposing chunks of code to people outside the corporate firewall. (Just the word expose -- common in Web services talk - is enough to give your security director the willies.) And I'm not sure that enough thought has been given to liability issues, or even to how participants are going to make money with external Web services.

My colleague Mark Hall certainly has a healthy skepticism about the grandest claims for Web services (page 34). So do I. But I think that if we tone down the hype, there are some modest expectations that have a good chance of coming true:

  • XML and SOAP have a bright future. They're simple. They each do one job and do it well.

  • Web services will make it easier to integrate internal systems. If nothing else happens, that will be a success story.

  • Web services are likely to replace what we now call electronic data interchange. They're a powerful tool for automating supply chain activity among trusted partners.

But will we have an economy based on a giant Yellow Pages directory listing thousands of public Web services, with electronic transactions flying to and fro? Count me among the skeptics there.

Mitch Betts is features editor at Computerworld. He can be contacted at

Special Report

The Web Services Tsumani

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Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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