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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
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Web Services Management - Plotting a Course for Success
Slow adoption requires careful planning

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)?
Web services management stands apart from the traditional management of most systems, networks, and applications. While traditional network and systems management (NSM) tools typically examine managed components without taking part in or directing their actual production operation, WSM software may take a much more active role in assuring the production operation of business services. This active management is essential when you consider that Web services crosses the boundaries of so many different systems, and networks and applications use open and potentially immature standards.

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
Most companies won't begin seeking a complete Web services management framework until close to the end of 2004. However, in the meantime they need to look for software to help them during the development phases, including tools, for example, that will help them check for proper WSDL descriptions of their services, perform load testing, or otherwise help orchestrate services. Many of these early needs can be met by the Web application server platform vendors but there are other providers as well. The following are some of the solutions available today.

Web Services Startups
These companies are the ones creating the pioneering advanced Web services management solutions. They offer the most granular control of Web services and secure important gaps in standards like security, but at the same time usually require that services be architected around the management software, which can be difficult to decouple if problems arise with the vendor or its software. They also require significant effort and cost to deploy or redeploy. Some of the key independent Web services vendors include AmberPoint, Actional, Blue Titan, and Infravio.

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
Microsoft, IBM, BEA Systems, and Sun Microsystems are racing to add basic Web services management and development aids to their offerings, usually at no additional cost, in order to compel wider adoption of their platforms. Where it makes sense to them, these vendors are also seeking integration with some of the start-ups.

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
Companies tend not to need new infrastructure to implement Web services, and, as such, traditional management vendors, who already manage this infrastructure, are well-positioned to add Web services capabilities to their existing offerings. Any additional capabilities can be integrated immediately into the enterprise nerve center, allowing Web services to quickly reach production status. However, these vendors are being pushed to commit to standards that are still subject to change and that may or may not be adopted, slowing the overall maturity of Web services management software.

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.

Recommendations
Looking to the future, companies should focus on the early stages of Web services management and begin to move management of these services into the enterprise nerve center.

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.

Conclusion
Except for truly leading-edge implementers, most companies using Web services today are focusing on integration of heterogeneous applications. They are not ready for enterprise-wide adoption of Web services, but do need to get a handle on the availability and performance of their current services. In some cases, their NSM vendors are fulfilling that need today. Meanwhile, early adopters using Web services to create composite applications must continue to take an opportunistic approach to Web services management - making investments in technologies that they know may have to be replaced as standards mature.

About Robert Anderson
Robert Anderson is a consulting product marketing manager within the PATROL Applications Management line of business at BMC Software, Inc., a leading provider of enterprise management solutions.
In his role, Anderson focuses on market strategy and development of BMC Software's Internet and Web services management products, including PATROL Internet Server Manager. Prior to taking this role in late 2002, Anderson was a lead product developer at BMC since 1999.
Anderson joined BMC Software, Inc. in 1996, when he led Unix systems management in BMC's IT department. He has used his IT background to help set BMC's Internet and Web services management product direction.
Prior to BMC Software, Inc., beginning in 1991, Anderson was a strong proponent of the commercialization of the World Wide Web, working to help establish the online presence of the Houston Chronicle and to further adoption of Internet services at the University of Texas - Houston.

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Is there a pointer to the claim that most of the web services today are being deployed in J2 and not in Microsoft?


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J Smith wrote: Is there a pointer to the claim that most of the web services today are being deployed in J2 and not in Microsoft?
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