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Point/Counterpoint - September

Point/Counterpoint - September

Web Services Journal strives to bring the latest information regarding Web services to you in a variety of ways. In addition to our printed journal and digital edition, we have begun a series of Point/Counterpoint sessions with leading industry executives to determine their viewpoints and issues with various facets of Web services. Here is the second in an ongoing set of conversations regarding the industry. WSJ spoke with Mark Herring, Director, Sun Microsystems' Java, Web Services & Tools Business; and Dare Obasanjo, a member of Microsoft's WebData team. (The opinions stated here are those of the speakers, and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of their respective companies. Dare Obasanjo's posting is provided "as is" with no warranties, and confers no rights.) 1. One industry commentator recently said, "Web services are like high school sex. Everyone is talking about doing it, but hardly anyone is...and those that are probably aren't doing it well." Do you agree, or have Web services on the contrary already graduated and gone to college? Mark: With so much attention paid to Web services over the last few months, I can see where people would wonder what is reality vs what is hype. The examples reported on -- usually involving airlines, hotels, rental-car agencies, and instant messaging -- are likely a ways away, but more practical services are already being introduced by enterprises to streamline processes and lower costs. Sun ONE customers in the banking, healthcare, publishing, and telecommunication industries, among others, are establishing real Web services that are delivering real benefits in the here and now. The question to ask yourself is: How long can my company afford to sit on the sidelines? Web services simplify both integration and application development -- leading to a ripple effect further down the chain. Every company should produce a long-range business strategy that identifies and prioritizes e-initiatives capable of delivering significant, measurable return on investment -- in employee productivity, in supply-chain efficiency, in better maintenance, the development of customer relationships and streamlining of the overall value chain. Dare: The dot-com bubble burst made it popular to predict over-hype in the technology sector, but unlike the dot-com era, we are seeing real progress with real customers in Web services. It is rather surprising to hear people talk about Web services as if they haven't arrived when in fact they are a reality today. Not only are developers and software vendor excited, but customers are seeing real cost savings through low-cost integration and speed of development brought on by Web services development tools, such as Visual Studio .NET. Dollar Rent-a-Car, Credit Suisse First Boston, L'Oreal, and the Australian government, to name a few, are all seeing amazing reductions in development time, cost saving, and new levels of flexibility in deploying real-world solutions using .NET. 2. XML has a reputation for sometimes making even simple things difficult - how does your company's approach to Web services deal with that? Mark: One of the greatest challenges facing developers today is how to take advantage of current Web service models while still leaving open smooth migration paths to the next generation of open, loosely coupled, context-aware, smart Web services. XML and Java technology are ideally suited to provide this smooth migration path -- XML as the open and ubiquitous language of data exchange, and Java as the industry-wide standard for scalable, cross-platform service delivery. Understanding the complexities of XML can be a daunting task, but this is overcome by having tools like the SunONE Studio products that automatically generate the necessary XML bindings and WSDL definitions. Dare: Think about the days of DOS. For a person to create a business report, they had to open up a spreadsheet application, enter financial data, print the spreadsheet and close the application. They would then open a word processor, type the report, and when they got to the section where they wanted to put spreadsheet data, they'd grab their spreadsheet printout and enter that in the word processor. With Windows, the person could not only have two or more applications open at the same time, but the real phenomenon was that the person could Copy and Paste between the applications. The platform provided a set of common services, like Copy and Paste, so two applications could be written to interoperate in a loosely-coupled way. We will do the same thing with Web services, but at a much larger scale. We will provide a set of standard distributed-platform services with which developers can write loosely-coupled applications to connect people, businesses, and devices over the internet. Just like we did with Windows, our goal is to give developers and corporations tools and applications that strip away the complexity of the underlying platform by giving them access to this common set of distributed platform services. 3. In April, Daniel Sholler of Meta Group claimed that "Global 2000 organizations will have heterogeneous application environments indefinitely, but .NET share will increase to 30 percent of enterprise development projects as J2EE use stabilizes at 40 percent by 2004." Do you agree? Mark: Heterogeneous application environments will predominate but .NET gaining a share as high of 30 percent of all enterprise application projects is unlikely. As a recent Giga report addressing the .NET vs. J2EE issue noted, J2EE has more mature clustering, load balancing, and failover technology, and Java is a more productive language for building enterprise applications. In the words of Giga VP and analyst Randy Heffner, ".NET clearly strengthens Microsoft's platform and gives it a stronger play into the enterprise, but not enough to significantly change the balance." While Microsoft may maintain strength with small to midsize businesses, the J2EE platform provides a richer set of tools and more vendor independence than Microsoft's .NET -- this makes it ultimately more appealing to enterprise customers. Dare: I would agree that there will always be heterogeneous systems. What Dan's comment doesn't take into account is the fact that, through the loosely-coupled architecture of Web services, .NET will grow to keep pace with the heterogeneous world. With this, and the fact that a developer can create a greater number of better applications more quickly on .NET and wrap legacy systems in the new model, we feel that we will exceed his prediction.

More Stories By Dare Obasanjo

Dare Obasanjo is a Program Manager at Microsoft where he works on the Contacts team. The Contacts team provides back-end support for Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Spaces, Windows Live Expo, and related services. Obasanjo is also known for RSS Bandit, a popular .NET-based RSS reader.

More Stories By Mark Herring

Mark Herring is a zealous marketer who believes that the road to marketing success always leads with the developer. Before InfluxData, he was VP of corporate marketing and developer marketing at Hortonworks, SVP of Products at Software AG, VP of Middleware, Java and MySQL Marketing at Sun Microsystems, and VP of Marketing at Forte Software. Earlier in his career, he was a developer and technical support engineer for Oracle. He holds a BS from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

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