Web Services: More Hype than Help

AMR Research: Low adoption, disparate standards make Web services more useful for internal integration for the moment

Tempe, AZ  April 29, 2002  Solution providers are touting Web services as the next cure-all for B2B integration among business partners, but to date the benefits of Web services have proved more hype than reality, according to a new report from technology consultancy AMR Research.

AMR Senior Research Analyst Peter Urban, in a research note published today on the consultancy's Web site, wrote that while Web services are proving useful for internal integration, they have not helped companies address external integration issues. "The Web services hype does not match reality," Urban charged.

In fact, just two of 40 large companies AMR surveyed reported having implemented Web services. Urban cites several reasons for the slow adoption rate.

For example, solution providers said companies are able to take advantage of Web services by tapping into applications stored on public directories. But because of low awareness of available services and corporate reluctance to use "unsupported freeware for mission-critical functions," none of the companies in the AMR survey had taken advantage of the publicly stored services.

Urban also compared Web services to another much-hyped technology, saying that, like the picture phones that were supposed to show up on everybody's desks years ago, Web services don't do you any good unless others are using them, too. "If you want to communicate with a partner via Web service SOAP calls," the analyst wrote, referring to the Simple Object Access Protocol that is supposed to help applications communication with each other via the Web, "the partner must have a SOAP listener on its end."

Other issues include the lack of standards in certain protocols for Web services and the absence of agreement within many industries regarding definitions for business terms.

Because of these various issues, AMR predicted that, for the moment at least, the greatest gains from Web services will come in internal integration within a single company (where agreement on business terms and standards should  at least theoretically  be easier to achieve).

Urban advised companies to stick with their current B2B integration systems based on enterprise application integration (EAI) or electronic data interchange (EDI), "because even if you are ready for Web services, your partners are not."

Urban's full research note is available on AMR's Web site.