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Loosely Coupled weblog

Friday, April 05, 2002

Building applications from applications
Web services architectures change the way that you look at applications. You have to stop thinking of them as packaged software artefacts, and think instead in terms of automated business functionality. Then you can see that today's software packages — from Microsoft Word on the desktop to SAP R/3 across the enterprise — are actually composite bundles of individual functional components. "The applications themselves will become less important than the core functionality that is delivered," to quote the IDC report I mentioned yesterday.

The surprising thing I discovered yesterday is that a company called Genient is already making this happen. Genient's customers are using its product to connect up the individual functions within any enterprise software suite (or across several of them), and to present them to users as an individual task-specific application. "We basically build applications from applications. But we're not an application development platform," CEO Eric Guilloteau told me. "We're about combining business process elements to enable a company to achieve what it wants to do." Genient's platform achieves this with very little coding, and without having to modify the underlying enterprise software in any way, a seemingly miraculous feat that I will be writing about at greater length in a future article.
posted by Phil Wainewright 3:04 AM (GMT) | comments | link

Thursday, April 04, 2002

IDC maps a route into web services for ASPs
My column on ASPnews this week made reference to some market figures from IDC in a way that may have given the impression the analysts there aren't up to speed about web services. Nothing could be further from the truth; IDC has done a great job of assembling a team that's very clued-up about the way things are going. I recently cited an article by Amy Mizoras, which makes a very useful distinction between online applications and the underlying web services components from which they are created — IDC calls these Web Services Application Components (WACs). I've since had sight of a report by Amy and a colleague that discusses how WACs will impact various types of ASP. My earlier comments were unfounded — they do indeed see these components being used at all layers of the application stack, and the report crisply and clearly covers the various implications for providers.
posted by Phil Wainewright 5:44 AM (GMT) | comments | link

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

When did the mainstream ever overturn the status quo?
It turns out that Amy Wohl doesn't agree with my assessment last week of the contribution the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) will make to the flourishing of on-demand web services. I confess that it was probably a bit much for me to imply the consortium is an attempt to deliberately derail the progress of web services. I'm sure the group means well, and I certainly don't doubt the commitment of those individuals who have been delegated to represent their employers in its deliberations. But with so much of the industry now involved in the group, how can it do anything else except concentrate its energies on ensuring web services cause as little disruption as possible to their existing business models and revenue streams? I very much hope that events prove me wrong, but having seen how obstructive these same software vendors were when ASPs were begging for on-demand licensing models — which, by the way, was a big part of the reason why ASPs were "terrible" at getting their pricing right — I am not counting on seeing a lot of disruptive innovation being championed by the WS-I.
posted by Phil Wainewright 12:26 PM (GMT) | comments | link
What web services can do for you - in layman's terms
This overview from McKinsey is a useful introduction to web services from a layperson's business perspective, rather than getting bogged down in architectural definitions. It brings out what I believe are two very important points about web services:
  1. It emphasizes the ability to select and combine services on demand as the most important attribute of web services. It doesn't waste time listing the specific standards that enable this, because at a business level that's not important.

  2. It emphasizes the importance of Universal User Profiles (UUPs) — the stored information that defines each participant in the network, along with their capabilities and access rights. These will be vital for the effective deployment of on-demand web services. But, as the article points out, the lack of standards surrounding their use remains one of the key unresolved issues holding back the adoption of web services.

posted by Phil Wainewright 5:06 AM (GMT) | comments | link

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Sun needs to wise up on web services standards
Sun's displeasure at being left out of the founding group of the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) has finally reached the headlines. It's complaining that "political shenanigans" were responsible for its exclusion from the founders. Well, what does it expect? The company has proved again and again — most notably over Java — that it doesn't understand how to play the standards game. Consequently its rivals simply run rings round it. Here's how IBM and Microsoft set things up to make sure Sun would stay out of WS-I:
  1. They knew full well that inviting other companies — Sun included — to join WS-I at the last minute would ensure that Sun would miss the deadline for becoming a founder while its lawyers and management combed through the small print.

  2. They knew equally well that Sun would then refuse to join unless it was allowed to become a founder retrospectively.

  3. They further calculated that, by the time Sun finally gave in and joined anyway, all the key committee chairs would have been allocated to other vendors.

  4. They knew they would then be able to count on Sun always complaining that it had been unfairly excluded from the WS-I decision making process.

  5. Past experience tells them that Sun will use its self-inflicted exclusion as an excuse for failing to comply with WS-I recommendations, leaving it isolated as an obstructer of the standards consensus.

All of this should have been obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense within the first half-hour of Sun receiving the original belated invitation. Is there no-one at Sun who understands politics?
posted by Phil Wainewright 1:47 PM (GMT) | comments | link

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