Although smart companies are using Web services to improve the way they do business, firms have even more to gain by changing the way they think about their infrastructure. According to a new Forrester Research, Inc. report, CIOs that adopt the discipline of service-oriented architecture are positioning their firms for better business agility through more advanced Web services and a tenfold improvement in integration costs. The Forrester report, "Mastering The Web Services Tier," outlines the five key technologies in an XML network – the intelligent infrastructure behind a service-oriented architecture – and describes the future of these technologies.

"Every company needs a cheaper and easier way to give their customers and suppliers the information and services they need," said Ted Schadler, principal analyst at Forrester. "It's what the Internet promised but failed to immediately deliver. While basic Web service technology has helped tremendously, firms need more. What they need is a full stack of infrastructure to make it easy to build secure, reliable services that a customer can easily use."

A service- based architecture is a discipline that advocates a no-barriers approach to securely and reliably sharing data in any software application or platform. Although the architecture itself can't be bought, firms can build domain- specific XML networks based on service-oriented infrastructure and shared network services. Why is this approach better? It offers more security and reliability, more flexibility and control, and more reusability than today's patchwork approach.

Today's service-oriented infrastructure landscape looks like a plate of spaghetti. Although more than 25 vendors are tackling the problem, none offer a complete solution – and their solutions are incompatible, overlapping and often conflicting. According to Forrester, technology buyers have two choices when building XML networks, both of which start with a strategic commitment to an application server:

1) Build the missing functionality in house, or
2) Buy technology from specialists to quickly plug the gaps.

For firms pursuing option two, Forrester has identified 16 specialists based on their expertise, funding and customer base and describes their greatest competency within the service-oriented infrastructure stack.

Since no vendor offering is a complete or compatible service-oriented solution, Forrester predicts that by 2006:

  • Service-oriented infrastructure will consolidate down to a few platforms offered by the application platform vendors: BEA, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Sun. But today, firms should look to specialists such as Systinet, The Mind Electric and Cape Clear.
  • Systems management vendors will eventually provide most shared network services, but today firms can deploy products from startups such as AmberPoint and Blue Titan.
  • Network vendors will ultimately deliver dedicated XML accelerators, but today only startups like DataPower and Sarvega offer XML accelerator appliances to handle XML processing and message-based security.

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