Software delivered as web services: what future?
While distributed web services are already proving their value to multi-site organisations, the next stage of evolution - the delivery of software as online services - is at least a decade away, according to IDC.
"Few people dispute that web services can, in their simple and early forms, contribute to solving the integration issues facing most large multi-site companies today," explained IDC research director, Rikki Kirzner.
But, according to Kirzner, most envisaged web services are currently pure speculation, with many players having given very little thought to what is practically achievable, and what it might cost to build the infrastructure for full use on the open internet.
Background To fulfil the 'software as services' vision, of which Microsoft's new .NET platform is a prime example, web services will need to be built from software components that must be identified, located, accessed, and dynamically assembled into customisable turnkey applications.
IDC says that the reality of that web services model is that it cannot be implemented in its entirety using current technologies and application development methods.
And, with the internet's increasing focus on security issues, the sharing of those components and data will certainly raise a number of difficult commercial, legal, and contractual issues, both for the providers and end users of web service applications.
Although IDC does not aim its comments at Microsoft in particular, the software giant's efforts are currently foremost in the software development industry's attention. Kirzner says that web services can succeed today but might not achieve the full scale magnitude envisioned by its proponents.
Future implementations IDC raises the following issues concerning future web services implementations:
- Major technology hurdles have to be overcome before software can be implemented as services based on components from third-party suppliers and outsourcers.
- Businesses and users have to make fundamental changes in the way they view software assets and intellectual property rights before vendors can deliver on the promise of using components as key elements of web services.
- Semantics, standards, security, and privacy issues will almost certainly present major stumbling blocks to later stages of web services implementation.
Despite these challenges, the concept of web services provides a compelling way for IT to become more responsive and adaptable to changing business needs.
According to IDC's report, Software as Services? What Your Mother Didn't Tell You About This Aspect of Web Services, presenting realistic expectations for web services is one of the primary goals that must be achieved before widespread adoption (and resultant profits) can be achieved.