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TechMetrix The Web Services Value Chain
 Reproduced with kind permission of TechMetrix Research External link
 Article written by: JEAN-CHRISTOPHE CIMETIERE, CEO and Lead Analyst (jcc@techmetrix.com  E-mail )
Special Announcement: Sign up today to become a TechMetrix Member  External link . The best part is Membership is absolutely FREE and benefits include: access to free white papers and reports, access to the upcoming Web Services Solutions Directory, etc.

  • Introduction
    Over the past months we've focused on evaluating the core technologies underpinning Web Services: SOAP, XML and WSDL. We also tested and evaluated the SOAP capabilities of some application servers, and assessed real commercial Web Services. In the coming months, TechMetrix Research will be publishing more detailed reports and reviews on Web Services; in the meantime, we'll give you a sneak preview of some of our findings.

    Our research work is still underway, but we've already tested a number of solutions, and talked to vendors and clients to figure out the shape of the Web Services value chain. We have identified the following levels:
    • Application Server Infrastructure (J2EE, MS.NET, OSS…)
    • Standards (XML, SOAP, WSL)
    • Web Services Server (Security, authentication, session…)
    • Web Services Developers (Develop the Web Services)
    • Web Services Marketers (Sell the Web Services)


  • Application Server Infrastructure


    As we pointed out in our article "Does the App Server market still exist?  External link ," even though the number of vendors is still high, the application server market is shrinking and most of the attention is focused on a select few options:
    • J2EE solutions
    • Microsoft Platform
    • And ultimately, various solutions including Open Source (J2EE/non-J2EE)


    The software vendors have all done their homework on Web Services, and have all at least announced a strategy.



    In the coming months, support for Web Services will become a key feature when choosing an application server. The general criteria for evaluating Web Services Support can already be laid down:

    • Use/Re-use of existing components/business objects
    • Productivity of the tools for Web Services enablement
    • Performance and reliability (load balancing/failover)
    • Compliance with standards


    This last item (standards) is the next level in the value chain we are describing.


  • Standards



    It is easy to pinpoint the building blocks enabling the concept of Web Services to become a reality today:

    • XML: format for data exchange and description
    • SOAP: protocol for calling Web Services
    • WSDL: format for describing Web Services
    • UDDI: central organization for registering, finding and using Web Services


    These four technologies are closely linked, although on closer inspection we can highlight the two basic standards that have led to the Internet's success: HTTP and XML (bear in mind that HTML is derived from XML).

    Of the four standards, the least interesting is UDDI. Although it has the great ambition of becoming the absolute, universal distributed repository for finding/using Web Services, UDDI has little chance of really becoming part of the game. Its ambitions are too broad, and certainly not appropriate for what enterprises are likely to need. This doesn't mean there is no need whatsoever for Web Service repositories, but enterprises may need private and custom repositories to truly manage their relationship with partners. In fact, a Web Service is just a resource, and hence it can be easily referenced, controlled and secured using existing technologies such as LDAP directories. So don't pay too much attention to UDDI, because it is not the key element.

    There are other technical initiatives involving Web Services that are worth keeping an eye on, such as XAML (http://www.xaml.org/  External link ) which describes itself as follows: "Transaction Authority Markup Language (XAML) is a vendor-neutral standard that enables the coordination and processing of online transactions in the rapidly emerging world of XML Web services."

    Besides these technical standardizations, we find various industry-related initiatives such as ebXML, RosettaNet and Biztalk.org. Each one is different but they share a common goal: to automate e-business transactions through a set of standard technologies (mainly XML). In future analyses, we will provide full descriptions of the main iIndustry-related standards. For now, SOAP and WSDL are actual specifications that do the job, and numerous products already include implementations of these standards, creating a new category of products that we have called "Web Services Servers".


  • Web Services Servers


    A new breed of application servers? Or simply the next step for most application server vendors?

    The answer to both questions is yes.

    There are already several solutions dedicated to Web Services development. Here is a short list:

    Note that in June 2001, TechMetrix will launch its Web Services directory, featuring the most comprehensive list of Web Service Server Solutions with product profiles, comments, info, and so on. If you are already a member, log on and check your profile option  External link or sign up now  External link to receive the e-mail alerts.

    As we have mentioned, application server vendors are doing their homework, but most of them are currently "patching" their products with SOAP libraries and basic listeners. This leaves some room for new players with solutions at the cutting edge of technology.

    To get back to the evaluation criteria for Web Services solutions, here is how we might split the pros/cons:

    In favor of "classical" application servers

    In favor of "new" Web Services Servers

    Use/Re-use of existing components/business objects
    Performance and reliability (load balancing/failover)
    Productivity of the tools for Web Services enablement
    Compliance with standardsv


  • Web Service Developers and Marketers



    These are the two remaining layers which complete the value chain: Web Services Developers and Marketers.

    They may be the same or different companies. We have separated them simply to highlight their different jobs, and we can identify two categories:

    • End-user enterprises (that use IT to run their business but don't sell IT): In every industry, every company has the possibility of becoming a Web Service Developer and Marketer, in order to improve its B2B processes, to develop new channels, etc.
    • Web Service Providers: this is a new category of players who provide vertical or horizontal Web Services. Take a look at our White Paper on Sevina e-service  External link , for instance, an early Web Services provider.


    So if you are an End-User enterprise, try to think what might be the most appropriate services to enable first. Then, once you've completed the technical task (primarily, SOAP-enabling your services, among other things), you'll be able to add new partners and develop new channels faster and with less custom coding costs. Meanwhile, you'll be able to strengthen links and processes with your existing partners.

    Web Services Providers can been seen as the next generation of Application Service Providers (ASPs). Remember the Application Service Provider hype in late 1999? The reality check came in 2000, when people realized you couldn't rent out traditional applications (SAP, for example) that hadn't been designed to be delivered that way. So what's next for ASP providers - bankruptcy? Maybe for some, but we may see others become Web Service Providers (WSP). Beyond the name change, it's not a big turnaround for current ASPs, as ultimately they will be hosting applications. The real value will come from creating genuine hubs of Web Services, delivering standard access methods and providing top-notch Service Level Agreements.


  • Conclusion



    We have written this analysis to help you understand the different layers that make up the value chain of Web Services. For each layer or set of layers there are a number of players that can be identified, each of whom focuses on one level in particular (back-office level or application level).

    However, there is one exception: Microsoft. As well as providing solutions based on standards (SOAP), Microsoft has been very evangelical about Web Services. But MS doesn't stop there, as a technology provider. Instead, it goes further, with Microsoft HailStorm (http://www.microsoft.com/net/hailstorm.asp  External link ).

    HailStorm is a collection of Web Services, which is user-centric and, as Microsoft says, puts "users in control of their own data and information, protecting personal information and providing a new level of ease of use and personalization". The HailStorm hub of Web services is expected for the end of 2001 in Beta. Microsoft's investment on Web Services is huge, at all levels.

    TechMetrix  External link will be keeping an eye on interoperability issues for its customers, making sure that the good ideas from Microsoft and other vendors don't keep you completely locked in.


TechMetrix The Web Services Value Chain
 Reproduced with kind permission of TechMetrix Research External link
 Article written by: JEAN-CHRISTOPHE CIMETIERE, CEO and Lead Analyst (jcc@techmetrix.com  E-mail )
Special Announcement: Sign up today to become a TechMetrix Member  External link . The best part is Membership is absolutely FREE and benefits include: access to free white papers and reports, access to the upcoming Web Services Solutions Directory, etc.


  

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