Web Services – News.com

Web services: Ready, set, wait:

“Technology executives and analysts agree that Web services, a much-hyped new way to build software, can enhance software applications by using the Internet for exchanging data. This allows, for instance, for more flexible systems and better communications with mobile devices.

The problem? “IT people are…confused. There are multiple standards, and the authority is being left to the vendors, who no one trusts,” said SoundView Technology Group analyst Kris Tuttle.

The result: Buyers are waiting for additional standards and better compatibility before they commit to large-scale projects.

Maybe we should begin bottom-up with web services: start with the small and medium enterprises of the world who need it and low-cost “Lego-like” software more than the bigger companies.

Upside on B2B

Upside on B2B: Phase II:

A key challenge for B-to-Bs in this new phase will be integration at different levels. Most of the action has been in business-to-employee (B-to-E), knowledge management, collaboration, and data integration. But B-to-B is also a fertile area for process integration, which focuses on better communication with partners, customers, and suppliers. Companies like I2 Technologies, Oracle, and SAP AG are now offering end-to-end buying and selling to marketplaces and collaboration capabilities. Their ultimate goal is to figure out the demand and then make it so easy that, by simply pushing a few buttons, a company could produce manufacturing instructions, sourcing instructions, and pricing.

This so-called collaborative product commerce (CPC) enables all potential partners in the value chain to receive the right information at the right time, so that they can make more educated decisions and reduce costs and time to market. With CPC, the long-held hope of creating communities of trading partners that, through B-to-B business processes, are able to collaborate on process design, inventory, forecasting, insurance, procurement, and other business functions is becoming increasingly real.

Hot Portals

Writes News.com:

Companies are opening their wallets to portal software because it can improve employee productivity and, in the long run, cut costs, analysts and technology buyers said. As an added bonus, increased competition among software makers has spurred a price war that could uncover some bargains for buyers.

Unlike most business application software, which tends to add complexity to internal computing infrastructures, portal software is designed to simplify. The software lets companies create Web pages, or portals, for their employees, customers or business partners. The benefit? One-stop access through a single Web page to vital information stored in a mishmash of dissimilar e-mail programs, human resources systems and sales databases.

This is what Emergic’s Digital Dashboard will do: by combining Blogs, Outlines and RSS Aggregation. I will be writing more on this in my Tech Talk column next week.

Enterprise Software Ideas

As part of the ongoing Tech Talk on “Rethinking Enterprise Software”, a few things I’ve been thinking about:

– We have to rethink the enterprise IT infrastructure as a whole for SMEs. This consists of the hardware (desktop and the server), the desktop interface and the software on the software. The Enterprise Software part which I’ve been analysing is part of the bigger whole, and cannot be seen in isolation.

– For most SMEs, the problem really is one of information flow. Given that I have a good product and that companies who I sell to will pay me money, the problem boils down to getting information of my product to the companies who need the product, and then internally, ensuring that I have an integrated system for managing information flow. To this end, a thought exercise which needs to be done: what is my ideal world for information flow? If there were no constraints, what information would I like on people’s desktops?

– With respect to the enterprise software architecture, there are 4 elements which constitue infrastructure: the Enterprise OS, a Visual Business Process definition environment, the Information Bus, and the Enterprise Information Portal. The final element are the Software Components which are developed on this platform by various companies close to the customers. I will elaborate on these elements in next week’s Tech Talk.

Web Services

McKinsey Quarterly on Web Services: “The substantial investments in Web services that players such as IBM, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems are now making have convinced some observers that this technology will soon be a reality. Others point to the significant remaining hurdles: key technical standards still haven’t been finished; specific services and new service providers have yet to be defined; and, perhaps most important, questions such as consumer privacy and security remain unanswered.”

Visual Biz-ic

As part of our Enterprise Software components, I was thinking of a Visual business-process development environment. Imagine if a company could (a) define its business “algorithms” and processes as business rules, and then (b) use a visual charting tool to “code” it up. This obviously is too simplistic for the big companies, but may actually work well for the SMEs, most of whose business processes have nothing really proprietary about them.

Take this idea further. Once enough SMEs put together their business processes into this, then we can even recommend (like Amazon’s Book Recommendations) what processes and software to use provided you can say that your company is like which other (or identify the industry).

Most SMEs dont need very fancy enterprise software, they need the basic stuff, but it should be cost-effective (cheap) and integrated. Today, little enterprise software falls in that category. There’s an untapped mass market waiting if we can simplify for the lower-end.

Am waiting to read Wolfram’s “A New Kind of Science” if it solves our problems!! I say this only half in jest — the book’s ideas of building complex components from simpler ones makes sense to me in the business process context. It’ll also test out Wolfram’s claim that his science has answers to everything. If 4 lines in Mathematica may be enough to code up the universe, then surely a few lines in “Visual Biz-ic” should be enough to make me get a consolidated view of all our disparate business information!

Application Servers

Two recent stories on Application Servers — News.com writes about Sun’s plans to bundle the AppServer into the Solaris OS, and BusinessWeek writes about the competition faced by BEA from IBM. BEA is the current market leader, with IBM running it close. Microsoft is the other player working hard to get in.

Application Servers connect the OS to the eBusiness applications. According to News.com, it is a “technology that runs e-business and other Web site transactions. It’s essential back-end software that has become a standard piece of e-business infrastructure.” A little more explanation from BusinessWeek: “The Web application server is the traffic cop for the Internet, creating and posting Web pages on the fly and handling transactions for the busiest Web sites and run-the-business applications.”

In the open-source world, there is JBoss.

Web Services

An article in The Guardian talks about Web Services:

    The big companies don’t necessarily get this. The day before Google released its web services to the public, technology guru Tim O’Reilly wrote: “(This) is a classic case of what Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, calls a disruptive technology. It doesn’t fit easily into existing business models or containers. It will belong to the upstarts, who don’t have anything to lose, and the risk-takers among the big companies, who are willing to bet more heavily on the future than they do on the past.