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Commentary: Who's first with Web services?

A recent Forrester survey shows which kinds of companies and industries are implementing Web services and which ones are lagging behind.

Commentary: Who's first with Web services?
By Forrester Research
Special to CNET
May 14, 2004, 6:30AM PDT

Mike Gilpin, vice president

Web services technology--standards-based Internet middleware--promises to deliver more flexible integration more easily across more internal applications and external partners.

Many companies stand to benefit by implementing Web services. Which ones are doing so already, and which ones are lining up to do so in the near future? The services industry has the most Web services overall, and retail has the fewest.

Large companies, which stand to benefit the most from Web services, have far more in production and development than small and medium-size ones. Companies that are increasing spending on enterprise application integration (EAI) have significantly more Web services in development, likely because they are moving toward Web services instead of message-oriented middleware in support of this effort. And companies that use J2EE have about as many Web services in production and in development as ones that use .Net, indicating that the two development platforms are used for Web services development about equally.

In 2003, Forrester found that 85 percent of companies planned to be using Web services before the year was out. Forrester's recent survey of 878 IT decision makers at North American enterprises provides further insight into Web services' march into the mainstream. We asked companies how many Web services they have in development and how many they have in production. Our findings:

• Services leads, retail lags, and media gets into the game. The mean number of Web services for all industries is 10 in development and 10 in production.

Business services companies--including professional services, transportation and logistics, and construction and engineering--are far ahead of the pack, with an average of 17 Web services in development and 12 in production.

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Meanwhile, retailers have half the average number of Web services, with just five in development and six in production. Expect the next wave of Web services adoption to take place in the media, entertainment and leisure industry, which has an average of 13 Web services in development--nearly twice as many as in production.

• The bigger the company, the more Web services. Not surprisingly, there is a clear correlation between number of employees and number of Web services.

Companies with more than 20,000 employees stand to distance themselves even further from their smaller counterparts, as they have an average of 18 Web services in development. Such companies stand to benefit significantly by using Web services to connect applications and automate processes distributed across the disparate parts of their businesses.

• J2EE and .Net shops are similar in their deployment of Web services. J2EE shops have a slight--but not statistically significant--edge over .Net shops in the number of Web services in development and in production.

As an overall development platform, however, .Net has the edge. In interviewing 322 software decision makers at North American companies, we found that 44 percent were using J2EE as their development platform, while 56 percent were using .Net. But bigger companies were more likely to use J2EE because of its ability to link different applications.

• Companies increasing their usage of EAI have an average of 13 Web services in development--almost double that of companies with a constant number of EAI deployments. This represents the continuation of a trend Forrester first noted in 2002.

One of the most common usage scenarios for Web services today is application integration, and this usage is displacing more proprietary ways of doing integration, such as message-oriented middleware. However, this displacement is often for new projects only. The result is that overall, there is continued demand for both standards-based Web services and message-oriented middleware approaches to integration, especially where the higher quality of service available from the latter is still a requirement for the business process.

© 2004, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.