Web Services

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Archived Viewpoints

1999

Before February 2005, the Web Services technology area was Component-Based Software Engineering.

The Component-Based Software Engineering technology area, introduced in March 1999, combined two previous technology areas: Computer-Aided Software Engineering and Object Oriented Technologies.

View the Computer-Aided Software Engineering Viewpoints archive

View the Object Oriented Technologies Viewpoints archive

About This Technology

August 2006

Web services and SOA could save companies millions of dollars by reducing the time and effort necessary to integrate software applications. Web services are the natural extension of a series of tools that software developers have used to simplify their work. These tools started with object-oriented technologies and progressed to component-based software. Web services are more flexible than these other approaches and easier for developers to use, and they take full advantage of the Internet. Web services are not services by the common definition: systems or arrangements that perform work for customers or supply public needs. Instead, they are Web-based services for software applications or for software developers who create applications or make existing applications work together. SOAs are software architectures that rely on Web-services approaches. Web services provide a means of publishing or exposing application logic via standard, lightweight interfaces. By using standards-based protocols such as HTTP and XML, developers can remove some of the tedious translation problems that occur between computing platforms or between applications. Making software applications speak the same language even if they originated in different languages or run on different platforms has been the holy grail of computing since companies began venturing outside the homogeneous world of the IBM mainframe in the 1970s.

All major software vendors—including Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and SAP—have released Web-services–enabled products, and some vendors are redesigning their entire product and services lines around the technology. However, companies are still in only the early phases of Web-services adoption, and the real commercial impact of Web services remains uncertain. Barriers include security concerns—particularly for Web services that reside on the open Internet, the resolution of Web-services standards, and the cultural attitudes of corporate IT departments that are unaccustomed to service-centric (rather than application-centric) computing.

If Web services and SOA can significantly ease the flow of communication between applications—both within and between enterprises—companies will see substantial benefits, some of which will flow to the bottom line:

  • Companies could save millions or tens of millions of dollars annually by avoiding the need to purchase proprietary integration solutions or to employ programmers to create "middleware" to tie legacy applications to each other or to newly created applications.
  • Enterprise-application developers could take advantage of software functions available on the Web or embed real-time data without having to install single-purpose, proprietary software clients or write custom software programs. Web services' "functionality for hire" could save time and money in developing new applications.
  • Free of the expense and delays of custom coding to integrate with legacy applications, business managers could deploy new applications more quickly and with smaller budgets, increasing their companies' return on investment on projects.
  • Companies could more easily partner to integrate their supply chains or create new services for their customers, creating both cost savings and new revenue opportunities. Speeding up the integration process also allows companies to take new services to market more quickly than other integration methods allow.

With most major vendors backing Web services, progress toward some version of the Web-services vision seems nearly certain. Less certain is whether Web services will, as IBM puts it, "have a more profound effect on business over the next five years than the Internet in the last five" or whether Web services will simply allow companies to create Web-based applications more efficiently.