TECH TALK: 2003 Expectations: Web Services and Utility Computing

In 2003, there will also be a build-out of what John Hagel and John Seely Brown describes as the Web Services grid. They write [1 2]:

Momentum is starting to build behind Web services technology deployments. To date, these deployments have been relatively modest from a technology perspective. Many of these early deployments extend across firewalls to connect applications residing in multiple enterprises. As businesses start to reap significant savings from these early deployments, executives are becoming more interested in broader deployments of the technology to coordinate business processes and support mission-critical transactions.

This will be difficult task without a layer of robust services, such as service definition and discovery, security and access control, metering/billing, routing of messages across applications or data transformation between applications, to support these core business activities. We have termed this missing layer the service grid.

This service grid is analogous to the electrical power grid in that it provides a set of utilities and services to ensure reliable distribution of web services. Shared utilities within the service grid provide security, third party auditing and performance assessment and billing and payment services. The service grid also includes a set of managed services that will help to facilitate transport of messages, locating and understanding characteristics of available web services, and ensuring web services perform as required.

The basic concept is to delegate to specialized service grid utilities two key roles (1) provide the demanding performance required to connect webservices together to support mission critical business activities and (2) help web services users and providers find and connect more easily with each other. Once again, the focus is on reducing the complexity for programmers seeking to connect web services. The service grid eliminates the need to reproduce basic functionality that all connections require and makes these available as specialized, shared services. This allows connections to be established more quickly and at lower cost, but without sacrificing on performance.

The web services architecture is closely tied to utility computing what IBM calls on-demand computing. Related concepts include grid computing and autonomic computing. The basic idea is to be able to treat computing as a utility, available on tap, on a pay-per-use basis. Part of the motivation for this stems from the increasing complexity in managing technology resources.

Writes John Ness in Newsweeks special Issues 2003 edition: The theory [of utility computing] goes like this. Customers are demanding faster service thats better tailored to their businesses. Various tech innovations (such as grid computing) are emerging that make that possible, but those innovations run through disparate systems, languages and networks. A companys IT department cant bring it together, but it can pay someone to synthesize all that business IT into a commodity. True-utility status will be achieved when that commodity is as easy for customers to manage (and companies to bill for) as gas and electricity are today.

Writing in the Economists The Year in 2003, Bill Gates takes it to its logical conclusion: Computers, like electricity, will play a role in almost everything you do, but computing itself will no longer be a discrete experience. We will be focused on what we do width computers, not on the devices themselves. They will be all around us, essential to almost every part of our lives, but they will effectively have disappeared.

Next Week: 2003 Expectations (continued)

Tech Talk 2003 Expectations

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.