Most integration efforts today don’t employ Web services. Rather, they work with more established XML-based messaging middleware, such as MQSeries and ActiveWorks. But there is general agreement among experts that Web services is a viable long-term integration answer. In fact, Web services is already popping up in some companies, inside the corporate firewall. But Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Chief Technologist for the Americas John Parkinson says that these projects to date have mainly been small pilot-type projects, and that while they were challenging, they were nowhere near as challenging as integrating core applications is going to be. “People have an overly optimistic view of Web services,” he says. “Companies are underestimating how complicated it’s going to be.”
Companies that start a Web services-based integration effort today are assuming more risks (see “Calculated Risks,” www.cio.com/printlinks). They’re basically coming up with an idea of what they think a Web services architecture will look like in two to three years and aiming for it, says Parkinson. If they miss their guess, they may have to do it all over again if they can’t make changes to what they’ve developed.
The alternative is to wait for standards and best practices to emerge. By waiting, the project will be cheaper and follow a more prescribed path. But you may miss out on a couple years of benefits.
Parkinson expects that the ROI on both approaches will ultimately be the same, with the quicker return of the latter (waiting) making up for the increased cost of the former (taking the plunge). The bill for both, he believes, could be similar to a single-instance ERP project.