Web services will most likely be used through 2004 for integration between trusted partners and for integrating applications within an enterprise, consultants with PricewaterhouseCoopers have concluded in a newly released forecast.

"The realization of the Web services vision will be unlikely during the three-year forecast period, particularly because the concept assumes that companies will be willing to do business with new and unfamiliar partners," says Eric Berg, managing director of PwC's Menlo, California-based Global Technology Center.

The PwC "Technology Forecast 2002-2004, Vol. 1" explores trends influencing development of enterprise applications as well as the ongoing evolution of enabling technologies and architectures for enterprise applications, including application integration, componentization and Web services.

Berg adds that possibly the greatest technical challenge facing most large organizations now in use of information technology is application integration. "Many enterprises now are – or soon will be – in the midst of transition from a software architecture based on the use of EAI middleware to connect packaged application suites to one in which applications are divided into smaller components that are much easier to integrate," he says. PwC consultants have also concluded that following the bursting of the dot-com bubble, the IT industry is going back to work and refocusing on building the tools and infrastructure needed to push e-business further into business activity.

"Many companies felt the pain of the dot-com implosion, but the exuberance that marked the past few years left behind some very positive aspects that will help carve out the future of enterprise software," says Mike Katz, chief operating officer and managing director of the technology center.

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