Five years into the Internet revolution and 18 months after the start of the bursting of the biggest financial bubble in history, the real utility of the Internet is now beginning to dawn. It goes by the moniker of “Web Services”. It is about business applications communicating with each other automatically through the Internet. It is about information sharing across enterprises. The silos of data created are about to be bridged. Or are they?
As worldwide investment in technology slows and companies search for returns on the monies put in over the past few years, the computer companies are now saying they finally have the Holy Grail that businesses have been looking for. The promise: seamless communication across the extended enterprise, reduction in working capital and inventory costs with just-in-time information, and leverage of the legacy software that companies have installed.
Is the Web Services revolution for real? Is it Yet Another Paradigm Shift? Or is it just a background technology, just some more plumbing? Will it really provide businesses the efficiency increase that they have been searching for? These are some of the questions we will explore in the coming columns.
Before we get down to a discussion on Web Services, it is important to understand what the Internet has done.
In the first phase, as companies have linked computers, the cost of communications has plummeted. The killer app in this phase continues to be email. We are also just beginning to see the adoption of corporate Instant Messaging in companies. Completing the communications triad is wireless text messaging, or SMS (short message service).
While most communications piped through the Internet is primarily email (with IM being used mostly for chat), the ability to integrate Email, Instant Messaging and Text Messaging lays the platform for real-time communications. Messages can be delivered not just between people, but between machines and applications – at a very low cost. The enabler for this, besides the wired Internet that we are accustomed to using, is the mobile Internet – being built by the cellphone companies worldwide. This pervasive envelope of ubiquitous reachability is one of the key developments of recent times.