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Year in review: Untangling Web services

After more than two years of hype over the emergence of Web services, the technology industry begins to sort out fantasy from reality in 2002.


Fact or fiction?

The Web services industry gets real.

After more than two years of hype over Web services, in 2002 the technology industry began to sort out fact from fiction.

There's still friction between software makers over who offers the best support for Web services, and there's still confusion over just what Web services is all about. But key standards, interoperability groups and, more importantly, products took shape in the past year. And the benefits of using Web services to easily link business applications is becoming clearer to IT buyers.

"This has been a year where Web services moved from promise to product," said Ron Schmelzer, an analyst with market researcher ZapThink in Waltham, Mass.

The tug-of-war between the two primary development camps, Microsoft's .Net architecture and Java, favored by Sun Microsystems, Oracle, BEA Systems and other software makers, continued unabated. But, after months of public bickering, both sides came together as part of the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I), dedicated to making competing schemes interoperable.

Still, demand for Web services tools and software remains sluggish, given the state of the economy and slender IT budgets. Technology buyers also said they are confused by multiple, seemingly competing standards and supplier product roadmaps.

Despite the slow start, analysts said many companies, big and small, took the plunge and implemented Web services pilot projects in 2002. The benefits--and cost savings--of Web services over traditional integration methods have outweighed the instinct to wait for Web-services standards to gel. Outside of core-IT uses, Web retailers such as Amazon and eBay began experimenting with Web services as a way to expand their sales channels.

In many ways, 2003 will be the true acid test for Web services. Next on the agenda is new security, management and workflow specifications that could help establish Web services as a must-have enterprise technology.

--Mike Ricciuti

Giants forge Web services consortium
Microsoft, IBM, BEA Systems and Intel plan to launch the Web Services Interoperability Organization to educate businesses on how to build Web services and how to ensure they do it in a compatible way.

February 5, 2002

Gates courts developers for .Net
Microsoft ships what chairman Bill Gates calls "the most comprehensive development tool of all time": Visual Studio.Net, a revamped package of the company's popular software development tools that includes its new Java-like language, C#.

February 13, 2002

Is Microsoft getting ahead of itself?
As Microsoft prepares to launch the first trials of .Net My Services, key details of the plan are still "not figured out," said Jim Allchin, Microsoft's group vice president in charge of Windows and server software development.

February 19, 2002

Java brewers' lost ground
Java software makers attempt to regain ground lost to Microsoft in the market for Web services technologies. But a delay in updating the J2EE standard to give programmers a uniform way to build Web services using Java won't make it easy.

March 25, 2002

Testimony highlights .Net "disarray"
During cross-examination of his testimony during the antitrust trial, Jim Allchin, Microsoft's senior vice president for Windows, sheds light on the software giant's shifting Web services plans and internal power struggles over competing ideas.

May 10, 2002

Microsoft ploy to block Sun exposed
In an e-mail to top executives, introduced during the antitrust trial, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates indicates that he approved of Microsoft's involvement with the WS-I as long as Sun Microsystems' role was minimized.

May 14, 2002

Sun plays catch-up to rivals
Sun Microsystems executives, sensing the company has fallen behind rivals in Web services leadership, tell programmers to quickly create a software "framework" that addresses what they see as potential security weaknesses in Web services standards.

June 14, 2002

Buyers wait for better compatibility
Technology executives and analysts agree that Web services can enhance software applications. But buyers are waiting for additional standards and better compatibility before they commit to large-scale projects.

June 18, 2002

Lost in .Net confusion
Microsoft acknowledges that its .Net plan has been slow to catch on. Although developers have given .Net high marks for its technical design, some customers have complained that the .Net marketing plan is confusing.

July 24, 2002

Sun joins the club after all
In a reversal of Sun Microsystems' previous stance that it would join WS-I only as a board member so as to be on equal footing with IBM, Microsoft and others, Sun announces it will join the Web services organization.

October 24, 2002

Amazon, Google open new doors
After much hype, confusion and skepticism, a handful of Internet companies are trying to do something that has stubbornly eluded the high-tech industry: Turn the vague concept of "Web services" into a reality for the greater Internet.

November 20, 2002

New IBM database speaks Web services
Big Blue unveils a new version of its database server software that includes better Web services support and revamped pricing. Analysts, however, say the new pricing plan is likely to be a mixed blessing for customers.

November 21, 2002

Vision Series: Web services
In 1999, Bob Sutor concluded that Web services would revolutionize the industry within five years. The former math professor now says he got the numbers wrong; everything is happening a lot sooner.

December 3, 2002


• Java jigsaw
• Borland to wield tools against Microsoft
• Sun pins hopes on Web services
• CIOs split on picks
•  Survey: IT budgets still in flux
• Standards body embraces Web services
• Seeking a common tongue
• Critics clamor for standards
• W3C defines Web services
• Services made easy
• Oracle appeals to W3C
• Directory assistance?
• IBM says Web services need Sun
• Throngs join new effort
• Microsoft hones .Net tools for battle
• HP exits e-business software market
• Built-in XML: Oracle's sales salvation?
• Who's afraid of BEA's sting?