Managing Web Services


A funny thing happened in that last year that drew little or no comment. XML Web services became a not too particularly mysterious integration tool that has become the default way linking things in the enterprise.

Now while it's true that XML Web services still has a way to develop in terms of reaching its full potential and interesting thing is starting to happen that should serve as the first real sign of maturity for this groundbreaking set of technologies.

People are starting to talk about the need to discover the number of Web services that have actually been deployed by an organization and who has the rights to access them.

One of the first companies to actively begin talking about the need to build products that do this is Systinet, which is led by company CEO Tom Erickson. Most people probably never heard of Systinet, but they were an early advocate of Web services and a relatively minor participant in the early days of the application server wars.

But rather than do battle in the enterprise, Systinet concentrated on getting ISVs to embed its application server underneath their applications. So while not many people have heard of Systinet, organizations that use software from Cognos, FileNet, Interwoven, Primus and Retail Decisions have some familiarity with the Systinet application server.

But as Web services goes mainstream, the strategic insight that Erickson is making is that companies that deployed Web services on multiple platforms, such as IBM's WebSphere or BEA's WebLogic, are going to turn to a third-party vendor to provide a unified way to govern the Web services created on those platforms, rather than trying to use IBM tools to manage BEA Web services or vice versa.

In short, what Tivoli, CA and HP are to the world of network management, Systinet aspires to be to the world of Web services management.

There is no doubt that Systinet will have to partner with other providers of management tools, as it does already with BMC Software. But for the first time, Systinet is actively looking for channel partners involved in application management rather than just ISVs selling software.

That helps creates an opportunity for solution providers that have network, system, security and application management expertise without having to invest in hiring hard-core developers that are steeped in the nuances of all things XML.

There's no doubt that other companies will surface with products that address the Web services management issue. But as is often the case, it's the convergence of need and ability that usually distinguishes the interesting startup from the next major thing. It's too early to say if Systinet is the next big thing in Web services, but it sure does seem to have good timing.