Preparing for the Future
With the enthusiastic adoption of Web services standards, products, and protocols, there's little doubt that Web services will be an integral part of our online future.
For Consultants and Developers
If you're a consultant or a developer, you're doing the right thing by reading this book. Soon your customers or your users will ask you to integrate Web service aspects in their Web sites, so you have to learn and get ready right now.
As you plan your strategy, keep these issues in mind:
Transparent markets always win, so it pays to encourage your customers and users to stick to the standards. If you develop your Web services in Java, you have the guarantee that they will remain open and available to the largest user base possible.
Be prepared to adopt tools and packaged products as they become available. For early projects, you may have to use crude tools to develop the applications. However, expect that packaged solutions will become available over time, and be ready to adopt them when they offer a competitive advantage (that is, they lower the cost).
Your customers and users may need help to identify the best solutions to deploy services. You will need to use your experience as a trained developer to point to them where savings may occur.
Most small businesses are well advised to continue deploying the Internet and wait before joining the Web service revolution. This is still a time for pioneers, and it is expensive to be a pioneer.
Large corporations should plan their move toward Web services right now. The market is maturing quickly; standards are available and development tools are better and more usable every day. Now is the time to stake your claim.
As you plan your solution, remember the economic laws. The transparent market wins. You should resist vendors who try to lock you into their proprietary solutions. You may benefit in the short term, but it will hurt your medium- to long-term developments.
Also keep in mind that revamping existing business processes as Web services may not offer the most economic advantages. It is more advantageous to look for issues that are improperly addressed by the current technology and take advantage of the new integration facilities that Web services offer to build a better solution.
The earlier discussion on using Web services for real-time inventory is a good example of this line of thought. In this example, the company looks for innovative services (in this case, offering real-time access to previously unavailable data) instead of simply automating the existing processes (such as the ordering process).
Software vendors that sell to business users should also look at integrating Web services. The demand will come and it will come soon. Again, it pays to remember that proprietary solutions will hurt you in the long run, so stick to open ones.
An interesting benefit of Web services for software vendors is that it enables them to offer services to their customers, as well as to software, which may mean new revenues.
For example, suppose you sell software to chemical laboratories. Your software helps them track analysis results. You could enhance the software with a Web service solution that, for example, would let laboratory customers check on the progress of their tests. Your software already collects the data, and it is a simple issue to distribute it through a new mechanism.
What should you include in the next product upgrade? You might want to consider adding a Web server to your software. The Web server would let the laboratories publish the information your application is collecting (as the preceding paragraph explained) as a Web service. You could also start selling a tracking application to customers of the laboratories. The tracking application would use the Web service to interact with the laboratory and report the results of their test batches. So far, Web services mean you have sold upgrades to your flagship product and, maybe, a new lighter application to the customers of the laboratories, but you could do better.
Laboratories are probably not really interested in managing the Web services. They would most likely be happy to let another party (that may be you or a third party) operate the Web service. This is particularly true if you recall that a Web service may require stringent security measures that the laboratory may not know how to implement properly.
Offering this hosting option (either directly or through partner hosts) creates yet another source of revenue for you. Better still, the revenue is a recurring one: every month you will be paid to manage the service.
ISPs and ASPs
If you currently sell hosting, Web services is a chance to offer more services to your customers. Initially, you will need to offer access to an application server, such as Tomcat (http://jakarta.apache.org), WebLogic (http://www.bea.com), JBoss (http://www.jboss.org) or WebSphere (http://www.ibm.com). Over time, expect to offer packaged Web service applications, such as the laboratory solution introduced in the previous subsections.