Code-named Generation 4 (G4) and available for download Wednesday, the software collection is geared toward helping companies build, integrate and manage Web services.
is the name given to many Web-based standards and protocols designed to let companies connect disparate applications and share data, either among their own units or with outside partners and suppliers.
The standards and protocols can be integrated into a layer of software--an interface--that companies put atop an existing application, thereby allowing any other application with a similar interface to link with it and exchange data. For example, Dollar Rent-A-Car Systems made its reservation data available to an online travel agency via a Web services application in order to enable the travel site to give visitors up-to-date information on what vehicles were available.
While many such applications are promising, analysts say a lack of sufficient security and management tools has been a key hurdle to the acceptance of Web services. Potential security leaks would be a major concern, for example, when shuttling employees' personal information from the human resources department to another part of the company.
"Both security and management are real problems in Web services, and have held back adoption," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at industry research company Illuminata. "The more companies...can do to alleviate some of the problems, the more we'll see increased adoption in the future."
The new management tools give programmers the ability to support remote deployment and handle large projects. The software supports industry standards including Extensible Markup Language XML, Web Services Description Language (WDSL), Universal Description, Discovery and Integration () and Simple Object Access Protocol (). The G4 package also gives programmers a new graphical interface. The final commercial release of the development software is expected to be available in early December.