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The technology of tomorrow is yielding benefits today for an increasing number of companies
Web services are at that tenuous bend on the technology adoption curve--loaded with potential, but largely unproven. The list of Web-service acronyms alone can be confusing, so it's not surprising there's uncertainty about how--and when--this promising concept will be put to broad use. The term refers to applications that are assembled over the Web using open interfaces and protocols. It starts with the basic XML markup language and includes the messaging protocol Soap; the UDDI format, which lets applications identify one another; and WSDL, which lets programs describe their capabilities. A growing number of companies are taking advantage of Web services, and some early examples demonstrate the technology's potential in real-world terms. Here are profiles of how five companies are putting Web services to work, what benefits they're gaining--and what's holding them back from doing more.
For Tony D'Agostino, the idea clicked last summer at a conference on Nantucket Island. The chief operating officer of Wachovia Securities Inc. had been looking for a fast and inexpensive way to bring a new data source into an internal Web site when he heard a presentation on Web services.
When it comes to health insurance, the words quick and easy don't exactly leap to mind. But that's how Jo Baxter, an office manager for San Diego Sports Medicine and Family Health Center, describes MedUnite.net.
For two years now, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. has believed that serving
customers online had to be at the center of its effort to provide banking,
investment services, and financial planning in addition to its core productlife
insurance. For the past year, the New York company has targeted Web services
as the means to do that.
When Peter Osbourne started using Web services in August 2000, he didn't
realize how far he had traveled along the technology curve. Osbourne, group
manager of advanced technology at Dollar Rent A Car Systems Inc., saw Web
services as just a simpler way to connect partners to the company's
reservation system. "Sometimes I have my head in the clouds and I don't
know that everybody isn't doing what we're doing," he says.
Web services may yet change the world ... or at least the Internet ... or perhaps only the process of software integration. Whatever you believe, it's clear that standards today are still far from the answer to all your integration needs.
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