Web services are maturing in face of obstacles to interoperability

Web services are maturing, both as a means of speeding up business processes across heterogeneous IT systems and for extending applications based on Java and Microsoft .net. But interoperability and performance issues still remain.

Web services are maturing, both as a means of speeding up business processes across heterogeneous IT systems and for extending applications based on Java and Microsoft .net. But interoperability and performance issues still remain.

Last week's JavaOne conference in San Francisco and Microsoft's TechEd Europe this week show that providers of web services tools are starting to address the complexity of building web services for interoperability and performance. But analysts and developers continue to complain of integration problems between Com/.net and J2EE.

Jaspreet Singh, a developer at the University of Wales, said, "Sun and Microsoft need to work to resolve integration issues."

However, third-party middleware is maturing, such as JNBridge and Intrinsyc Software's J-Integra, which provide high-performance Java to .net or Com interoperability. These packages do not use web services, and so offer better performance.

Another concern is the performance of web services. "There are performance issues when using the web services model. It adds an extra layer of complexity, and not all data types from .net or J2EE can be represented in the form of XML documents," Singh said.

A forthcoming hardware-based Java accelerator from BEA may help to improve integration and performance.

At JavaOne BEA unveiled details of the processor-based version of JRockit, its Java virtual machine software. It is likely to be supported on Intel Xeon, IBM Power and Sun Sparc chips.

Along with acceleration technology, several companies are starting to offer web-based services that extend the functions of standard applications.

Experian and Microsoft have launched a .net web service that provides secure online business information to Microsoft Office 2003 users. The web service enables Word, Outlook and Excel users to access business information about UK companies without having to open a web browser. When they type in a company's name, the web service will give details of the company's credit worthiness.

Meanwhile, SAP is developing its Mendocino suite of web services with Microsoft so that users can access core SAP processes from within Outlook.

* Microsoft is putting the finishing touches to Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005, both expected later this year. The Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite offers integrated, extensible software lifecycle management tools. Microsoft said the product will also provide integrated web services modelling tools, code quality and performance tools.

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