Web services will capture substantial attention in 2002, and by 2004 Web services will dominate deployment of new application solutions for Fortune 2000 companies, predicts Gartner.

2002 is the year companies need to start putting together teams of developers who will become well seasoned to lead bigger and more valuable Web services efforts later.

"Enterprises should take their first steps in 2002 to take advantage of the low- risk aspects of Web services in internal developments," says David Smith, vice president and research director for Gartner. "With few exceptions, implementing high-risk business or technology projects with Web services should be avoided until at least 2004. Enterprises should first identify a short list of internal development problems that can potentially be fixed through Web services technologies. Then, they should set a schedule for addressing them in the first half of 2002."

Web services are software components that can interact with one another dynamically via standard Internet technologies, making it possible for enterprises to build bridges between IT systems that otherwise would require extensive development efforts. With Web services, an enterprise's systems can advertise the presence of business processes, information or tasks that can be consumed by other systems, providing immediate benefits to business- to-business and business-to-consumer relationships.

Web services are beginning to become part of most major vendors' software architectures – a check-mark item to include in their technology infrastructure strategies. By 2003, approximately 80 percent of all platform vendors will support Web services architectures, which will represent the next generation of platform middleware.

"Although Microsoft has had a tremendous influence on Web services, the architectures and solutions that are based on its nemesis, Sun Microsystems' Java technology, will be at least as important as Microsoft's chosen technologies," Smith says. "Already in progress, several Web-services- related standards will emerge from, and be started in, the Java Community Process. By year end 2002, Java will play a significant role in Web services architectures, but the leadership will come from vendors other than Sun through 2003."

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