Web Services Management - Plotting a Course for Success
Slow adoption requires careful planning
By: Robert Anderson
Apr. 5, 2004 12:00 AM
Web services are no longer a collection of buzzwords in the field of e-commerce. Instead, Web services technology enables companies to effectively integrate applications from disparate platforms and partners into a composite application built on business processes.
In today's early stages of deployment, many companies across a variety of industries are experimenting with Web services. However, we are still not at the point where Web services are the standard for doing business with customers, suppliers, and partners. As a result, most companies won't need a complete Web services management framework until business-critical services become more pervasive - through the end of 2004 and into 2005. This article examines the process of implementing both early-stage and advanced Web services management.
Among the techno-savvy in today's corporations, Web services are being touted as the next big driver for the technology business. Arming companies with the ability to do business securely outside of the corporate firewall is an important step on the road to cutting costs and improving productivity. However, while Web services are a step forward, technology buyers are still left with important unanswered questions. Web services management companies competently addressing security, performance, and reliable messaging of Web services will be best positioned to answer these questions and capture the early investment in management.
As companies begin to re-architect their applications around a service-oriented architecture (SOA) using Web services as the process backbone of their enterprise, it is clear that software to ease this transition should play an integral role in their overall management strategy. The early introduction and effective use of Web services management can help ensure companies reap the simplification and cost benefits of Web services and meet broader business goals.
What Is Web Services Management (WSM)?
The componentized and dynamic nature of Web services introduces new considerations for management that are not prevalent in traditional NSM applications. The network of services in a composite application can change frequently, and mature management solutions must be able to answer questions like who's using the service and how often. Companies cannot accurately measure the liability of failed services unless they can answer these questions. These problems dictate that Web services management software must deliver a service-based view instead of the silo-based views provided with traditional NSM software.
The many different components that make up the composite applications of Web services also mean that the best Web services management software will not be limited to services implemented by one vendor or platform, but will instead manage any services adhering to open standards. The complexities of SOA suggest that management requires investing in a company with established experience in enterprise management. Traditional NSM solutions are concerned with making sure individual application components are available and responsive, but Web services solutions must tackle more complex concerns, including security, provisioning, orchestration, load-balancing, and change control. With Web services, a failed service at one provider does not necessarily mean the production business application is broken, adding complexity to the management task (see Table 1).
Where to Start
Web Services Startups
Larger, more established enterprise systems management vendors are partnering or acquiring many of these players at a rapid clip, and it's questionable how many of these startup companies will survive intact as Web services adoption rates increase through the next 18 months. Hewlett-Packard acquired Talking Blocks in an effort to strengthen its adaptive management approach to linking IT to business services. Computer Associates appears to have decided to more directly target the basic problems of Web services management by acquiring Adjoin and releasing an extension to its flagship Unicenter product line, CA Unicenter Web Services Distributed Management.
Web Services Platform Vendors
For these vendors, their biggest strength is also their weakness - their solution is tightly integrated with their application server and development environment. Their solutions meet very specific needs based on the platform suite but focus only on one vendor's solutions. Additionally, they currently do not offer solutions to many of the important challenges outlined in Table 1.
Traditional NSM vendors
OASIS (www.oasis-open.org) has a technical committee (TC) dedicated to proposing a standard for Web services management, the OASIS WSDM TC. This is the only body proposing a standard for the NSM vendors to use but it is months away from ratifying an initial proposal. It will take considerable time for the TC to address the complex challenges outlined above.
Companies should also take advantage of the various tools available within their Web services platforms. Much of today's Web services development is taking place within the J2EE application servers and, as such, the availability and optimum performance of J2EE platforms - like IBM WebSphere or BEA WebLogic - is of the utmost importance. Just as important is the overall availability and performance of Web services and the applications that are executed on these platforms.
New management capabilities are being incorporated into these application platforms as their Web services capabilities mature, and enterprises should look specifically for those with in-depth J2EE management facilities. These should expose more execution details about applications, enabling IT operations personnel and application developers to identify and resolve problems that occur within Web services applications.
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