1 March 2002
No passing fadWeb services a smart technology
by Gregory Hale
It's an endless problem in this information age: sorting a fad from a true technology breakthrough. As our industry becomes more closely aligned with the fertile marketing minds from Silicon Valley, we all have to really watch out for the buzzword du jour. Remember the application service provider (ASP) phase that was supposed to revolutionize the industry? Never happened.
The latest new phrase hitting our neck of the woods is Web services. This concept is new to our industry, and unlike ASP, it looks like it may stick around. Simply put, Web services enable companies and other organizations to distribute their goods and services via the Internet or intranets and allow companies needing them to integrate those technologies with their own applications and databases.
To show how well Web services are catching on, instead of the constant acrimony among warring competitors, as happened during the fieldbus wars fiasco, major industry players led by IBM, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, and about 50 others last month formed a group called the Web Services Interoperability Organization to teach others how to use Web services. They're betting Web services are the real deal, not just the latest fad. Do you think that heady pack of industry behemoths would work together on anything unless they smelled a substantial profit? I don't either.
As part of Web services, if someone wanted to find a particular item, he or she (or a machine) could immediately find, via the Internet, XML code that identifies the goods or services needed. In short, we are looking at a better tool to allow true communications and services up and down the enterprise. One hand will definitely know what the other is doing.
Web services will allow for a stronger move into collaborative manufacturing, enabling your company to focus on its strengths while using other companies to make, market, sell, and distribute goods.
But as it is with collaborative manufacturing, Web services will force companies to break down the walls of "doing business the way we have always done it." That means sharing information, communicating, and offering an open environment with your partners.
"Businesses are attuned to hoarding and protecting information, especially when dealing with other organizations," said Larry Hawes, senior advisor at Delphi Group, a global advisory firm that focuses on the intersection of business and technology. "That needs to change. Web services are all about the collaborative sharing of resources."
It's funny, but it always comes back to the same idea of doing business differently than you ever did it before.
Whether it's building a car or refining petroleum, everyone has to find new ways to improve the way they do business. Web services are not a passing marketing whim. They could push your company over the top.
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