On the surface, Web services appear to be a risky proposition for enterprises. Why will IT organizations that have demanded full control over all aspects of enterprise applications adopt a distributed and shared software architecture that moves administrative control over various parts of applications outside of the enterprise firewall? The runtime characteristics of Web services-based applications will have critical dependencies on remotely hosted and remotely managed external businesses. This is a severe departure from the centrally controlled as well as the guaranteed predictability and reliability that have become the hallmarks of enterprise software and the IT organizations that manage them.
The reasons for this break are clear. Web services enable the flow of data and business processes between business partners between enterprises as well as between multiple organizations or groups within an enterprise to a degree that have not been possible before. Businesses that could not previously communicate and applications that could not previously interoperate can now do so.
Web services enable companies to drive topline growth by integrating together different services and introduce new revenue-generating services. At the same time, Web services simplify integration, reducing time-to-market and costs, as well as support operational efficiencies that streamline the bottom line.
The potential benefits of Web services are enormous. The risks are equally great, if not greater. Enterprise IT organizations will find themselves in the middle, responsible for reconciling the benefits with the risks of adopting Web services within the enterprise.
IT organizations, in an effort to gain a controlling foothold over risky and potentially harmful Web services traffic, will insist on controlling which Web services applications interact with one another. A misbehaving Web service will simply be cut off from interacting with any enterprise applications; such cut offs may even be preemptive if there is a history of problems or a perception of a threat.
To accomplish this, IT will take on a more strategic role within organizations and align itself more closely with individual business units. Critical decisions by business units, such as the partners from which to source components, will have to be cleared by IT if those partners' Web services will interact with the applications or Web services of the company.
This will have major ramifications for enterprise application architectures. Enterprise applications will support dynamic and swappable Web services hardwired Web service invocations will no longer suffice. Moreover, IT will use management environments to deploy enterprise-wide policies for Web services that will monitor and strictly enforce the Web services that applications can use.
There is no doubt that the uptake of Web services within the enterprise will require changes. Many of these changes will be to established procedures and existing policies that have been supported by years of experience and billions of dollars. Nonetheless, the potential benefits both financial and strategic to adopting Web services are sufficiently large to justify such changes.