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Hype, Stealth, and the Dark Side of Web Services

Hype, Stealth, and the Dark Side of Web Services

As the new year finally starts to take hold, we're seeing a number of interesting, challenging, and even disturbing trends in the world of Web services. One of the more interesting business intelligence reports predicted recently that Web services will hit the height of its "hype curve" midway through this year.

In case you've never seen the hype curve, it's a curve with a sharp rise at the near end, and a gradual slope downward. The beginning of the curve signifies nascent products - things that are known only to small numbers of folks and are usually still fairly immature. The height of the curve is the point of widespread interest, with some early adoption but also a great deal of wait-and -see attitude. The downturn of the curve is where the technology finally becomes mainstream. Some technologies never make it to the top of the curve; others linger there and never make it to acceptance.

According to my calendar, if the height of the curve for Web services occurs this summer, we're looking at 18 months total from inception to widespread interest. By way of contrast, my calendar has Java taking about five years to reach that point, somewhere around 1996.

Now, some of my more cynical friends would say that's because Java has legs whereas Web services is an 18-month flash in the pan. I don't think so, and that's because of another trend in Web services - "stealth adoption."

We saw this in the Java world, when people began using EJB servers. Early on, the application server vendors had tremendous difficulty providing references - their customers were reluctant to be seen as on the cutting edge. This is all part of that same chicken and egg syndrome that affects every new technology.

Well, stealth adoption is taking place even as we speak. I spend a good deal of editorial time working with vendors in this space, and my discussions with them lately have all had the same quote: "We've got a big account, but they're not willing to speak about it yet." In other words, stealth adoption. Which is natural, but frustrating. Still, this trend points to Web services making it down the other side of the curve toward broad adoption. It's not a guarantee, naturally, but it does bode well for its future.

Then, of course, there's the seedy side of Web services. January 2002 saw the first Web services virus. Although it was only a lab virus, one conceived by a white knight hacker and sent to Microsoft only, as a warning of a security hole, it's yet another sign of broader interest and adoption - people don't write viruses that they expect no one to use (so to speak). It's also a wake-up call for all of the application vendors who have been ignoring or sidestepping the Web services security issue - it needs to be solved. Which is why, of course, we're focusing on security in this issue.

Security continues to be the straw that may break our camel's back. Microsoft's .NET initiative in particular needs to be bulletproofed, both to overcome the Windows platform's reputation for security lapses and to entice users into providing sensitive information, such as credit card data, in their Passport. Without a feeling of absolute security, very few people are going to gamble their credit history in exchange for ease of use.

The Java world also needs to address the issues of security. In reality, security is an issue for the entire platform. E-commerce needs authentication, encryption, and nonrepudiation in order for Web services to work effectively. Right now, the specifications are somewhat agnostic to this fact. As with Single Sign-On, this provides an opportunity for security vendors to ply their wares in a new arena and to come up with measures that effectively protect the consumer and businesses.

It's that time again as well - time to begin thinking about increasing your Web services skills and networking with other professionals. This year our Web Services Edge 2002 East conference will be held in New York City, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, June 24-27, 2002. This promises to be a fantastic event, with topics on .NET, Java, XML and business and project management (www.sys-con.com/WebServicesEdge2002East). I'm also pleased to say that we're colocated with TECHXNY/PC Expo this year, so there are even more reasons to attend the conference. Enjoy this issue, and see you in June.

More Stories By Sean Rhody

Sean Rhody is the founding-editor (1999) and editor-in-chief of SOA World Magazine. He is a respected industry expert on SOA and Web Services and a consultant with a leading consulting services company. Most recently, Sean served as the tech chair of SOA World Conference & Expo 2007 East.

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