Cynics hear familiar ring to the next big thing

Last month's Web Services for Business conference in London saw a continuation of the hype surrounding "the next big thing".

Last month's Web Services for Business conference in London saw a continuation of the hype surrounding "the next big thing".

If the suppliers get their way, we will end up spending a vast amount of money on web services to create a network through which applications can exchange information.

With the current economic slowdown, it is easy to see why the industry is so desperate for web services to succeed. Without the silver bullet that they promise, software and hardware firms will have little chance of returning to the double-digit growth of the late 1990s.

Call me a cynic, but the idea that web services will change the way we conduct business seems an awfully familiar message. In the 1990s, IT suppliers sold the concept of client server computing as a way to slash mainframe maintenance costs and give end-users more flexibility by moving from centralised IT to a distributed model.

Users unwittingly took on board the idea of distributed computing. It made sense, after all. But mounting costs and less reliability and scalability quickly negated any savings the IT salespeople had promised. The industry was forced to create a rash of acronyms, such as Corba, DCom and EAI, to solve the problems that distributed computing created.

Ironically, the industry is now saying web services is a far better way to do integration than anything that came before it, and that it will simplify business-to-business communications.

Apparently, DCom, the Microsoft model for distributed computing, and Corba, the model proposed by the Object Management Group, required an "ideal world" in terms of IT. In other words, they didn't really work all that well. So how does that make you feel?

If it was my money being spent on horrendously expensive integration technology, I would ask for a refund. At the very least, I would choose another supplier next time it came to spending my overstretched IT budget.

Neither option is practical due to the fact that we live in a world dominated by a few rich IT suppliers. Worse still, while users are struggling to maintain the security of their IT systems, web services opens up infinite opportunities for hackers to compromise security.

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