2002 Retrospective and Thinking Ahead

Maybe it’s the end of the year that brings retrospective thought, or perhaps it’s one too many post-holiday feast chats over eggnog, but in any case, it is the habit of many an analyst and journalist to think through all the events of the previous year and guess how the upcoming year will turn out. So, we thought we’d throw our hat into the ring and tie together some of the major events of 2002 with a few unique twists from our distinct perspective while also providing clues as to where our research, analysis, and insight will be heading.

The emergence of SOAs in corporate IT infrastructures
2002 brought Web Services into the mainstream of IT industry thought, as well as into limited production in many enterprises of different sizes and industries. Many of these tentative first steps were limited implementations of tightly coupled, synchronous, SOAP over HTTP applications of Web Services. While these implementations are a good start, IT organizations are coming to understand that the substantial cost savings and top-line improvements that business agility promises require deep architectural change. In particular, standards-based, loosely coupled Service-Oriented Architectures (SOAs) promise the business value that today’s tentative applications of Web Services only hint at.

However, moving to SOAs is a complex, difficult task. Moving to SOAs requires significant change in the way that enterprises design, model, develop, deploy, test, and manage IT resources. ZapThink predicts that 2003 will usher in new business models, vendor product offerings, professional services solution offerings, standards proposals, and yes, even real-life case studies, that embody this movement to SOAs. Web Services themselves will rightly take their place as a piece of the SOA puzzle. So, if 2001 was the year that Web Services answered the “what” question and 2002 was the year they answered the “how” question, then 2003 will be the year that they answer the “why” question.

The First Roadblocks to Web Services Adoption: Security and Management
Even though 2002 marked one of the toughest years in recent memory for the IT industry, Web Services shone through as one of the few areas of activity in an otherwise lackluster environment. Nevertheless, much of the to-do about Web Services was more hype than substance. The fact of the matter is, Web Services adoption hit a series of roadblocks in 2002, and more are yet to come. ZapThink laid out our Web Services Adoption Roadmap early in 2002. Our research was positively borne out as IT organizations realized that they had to overcome critical security and management challenges before their Web Services implementations would meet broad enterprise needs.

Security was the first roadblock to Web Services adoption. In early 2002, industry vendors, end-user organizations, and professional services organizations tackled the critical issues of identity management, authentication, authorization, administration, privacy, and confidentiality that enterprises needed before they could expose critical IT assets as Web Services. Toward the end of 2002, several vendors began roll out Web Services management products, looking to help companies remove the second roadblock to Web Services adoption. This new class of IT management products actually help companies to build and run SOAs. The nascent Web Services security and management solutions from 2002 will undoubtedly mature in 2003. However, security and management are just the first in a series of roadblocks to the successful adoption of Web Services and SOAs. Next on the runway: transactions, registry solutions, and Web Services orchestration and workflow solutions.

Improving XML and Web Services Performance through XML Proxies
ZapThink also saw the emergence of XML Proxies, a new category of product early in 2002 targeted at addressing one of the primary drawbacks of XML and Web Services: their inefficiency on the network. One of the greatest hidden dangers of widespread XML and Web Services usage will be their impact on corporate networks, from bandwidth as well as processor and storage perspectives. Indeed, ZapThink found that up to 25% of corporate bandwidth will be consumed by XML traffic by 2006. With the emergence of both hardware and software solutions XML proxies, IT architects and data center administrators have another weapon in their arsenal for reducing the impact of XML and Web Services on the network. In 2002 there were but a handful of vendors pursuing an XML Proxy product strategy, but ZapThink expects this segment of the market to significantly heat up in 2003.

XML Adoption in Vertical Industries
ZapThink opened its doors in late 2000 by focusing entirely on the adoption of XML in various different vertical industries. Our detailed XML Standards Reports (licensed by XML.org) and XML in Financial Services Report showed that XML adoption was not a limited phenomenon. In fact, throughout 2002, we saw considerable evidence of widespread XML adoption in industries as diverse as manufacturing, media and entertainment, consumer packaged goods, financial services, government, pharmaceutical, health care, and other industries. One of the key trends across all of these industries is that the majority of early adopters were large companies that often dominated their respective industries. With an expected budget recovery in 2003, we can expect to see even greater adoption by industries of all types and companies of all sizes.

Market Consolidation
Another major trend for 2002 was the beginnings of consolidation in various parts of the XML and Web Services-related markets. In particular, ZapThink saw tremendous evolution in the XML Data Store market. At the tail end of 2001, the Native XML Data Store (NXD) market emerged as a separate segment, but it became clear by the end of 2002 that this segment was short-lived. As RDBMS and Content Management vendors realized the value of adding native XML data storage capabilities to their products, the NXD market segment soon became subsumed within these other markets. Evidence of this consolidation and evolution includes the Progress acquisition of Excelon and the Interwoven acquisition of XYZFind as well as the addition of native XML indexing by Sybase, soon followed by Microsoft and IBM. In 2003, further market consolidation of the XML data storage market and others will become increasingly evident.

Keeping our Sights on the Moving Target
2002 was a formative year for much of the XML and Web Services industry, and 2003 promises to be a “make-it-or-break-it” year for much of the industry. It has been a thrill for us at ZapThink to cover the market in 2002 and we look forward to keeping our sights on the moving target of XML and Web Services into 2003 and beyond. Companies looking to implement XML and Web Services solutions, especially SOAs, will no doubt need to keep track of all the shifts and changes in the standards, products, solutions, and market categories. ZapThink looks forward to continuing to provide its research, analysis, and insight into these changes, so stay subscribed to this ZapFlash as well as other ZapThink announcements for our unique perspective on the movement towards standards-based, loosely coupled computing architectures.