Coupled--The Missing Pieces of Web Services is still
new (the official publication date is August 2003) and is therefore
somewhat hard to find. Here are some tips as of today:
US$27.59 and in stock. Best price for U.S. orders.
US$27.99, 2-3 days.
$31.99, 2-3 days (some days "unavailable").
Not in stock yet. :-(
CDN$38.69 (30% discount), 1-3 months! (temporarily)
Press: US$39.99, direct from us, ships within 24 hours.
(Not the cheapest, but the best source for fast or non-US delivery.)
Amazon.com Review of the Week:
book provides an excellent explanation of why companies should
be looking at Web services. It approaches the topic with an
honest and straightforward description of the problem space
Web services are targeted to address and the characteristics/short
comings of those technologies as they exist today and as they
are expected to evolve. Perfect for IT decision makers who
are evaluating how/where Web services fit in their corporate
--James Snell, IBM, author Programming
Web Services with SOAP
more Amazon.com reviews.)
Does IT Matter? Is information
technology about to achieve commodity status? The discussion began
with an article by editor-at-large
Nicholas Carr in the May 2003 issue of Harvard Business Review
in which he claimed "IT no longer offers strategic value to
anyone." Carr has stirred up a real hornets' nest in the press
Not one to let a good controversy go by without expressing an opinion,
here's my take on the matter. Although I disagree with Carr's conclusions,
I think many of his points are valid and important. Carr's argument
is that like railways and electric power, IT is about to become
a commodity and therefore no longer the source of sustainable competitive
advantage. I addressed this issue relative to web-services technology
in my new book. The following
figure taken from Chapter 18, The Timing of Complex Projects,
illustrates the point. (The dates are for example only.)
In the general case, Carr is right. All technologies that at one
time offer competitive advantage eventually turn to commodities
or disappear entirely. His mistake, IMHO, is that he lumps all of
IT into a single category that will become a commodity all at once.
Certainly, there's much more innovation yet to come from IT, and
well-run organizations will continue to use technology to create
competitive advantages, albeit temporarily.
Carr writes, "The trap that executives often fall into, however,
is assuming that opportunities for advantage will be available indefinitely.
In actuality [as I've illustrated above], the window for gaining
advantage from an infrastructural technology is open only briefly."
True, but all technologies that at one time offer competitive advantage
eventually become commodities. This is nothing new. Competitive
advantages created by technology have always been temporary and
always will be.
At one time, FAX and email offered early adopters competitive advantages.
But do your FAX machines or email give you an advantage over your
competition today? Probably not, since your competitors likely have
FAX and email, too. New technologies such as web services will
offer a competitive edge for a brief period, as long as they're
new to your industry. But once they're commonplace, these technologies
aren't business differentiators any more than email or a FAX machine.
Web services will be required in virtually every industry. Even
local Mom and Pop storefronts will eventually use web services to
communicate with their suppliers and manage their inventories.
Today, you may be able to achieve some short-term advantage from
web services if your competitors don't offer or use them. But at
some point, the tides will turn. Once web services become common
in your industry, you'll be at a disadvantage if you don't use them.
As Carr suggests, the period of competitive advantage will come
to an end. "What makes a resource truly strategic--what gives
it the capacity to be the basis for a sustained competitive advantage--is
not ubiquity but scarcity."
But Carr apparently doesn't recognize that within the huge umbrella
we call "IT" there continues to be new technologies that
offer competitive advantage even while the older technologies drift
towards commoditization. For this reason, IT isn't at all like the
railroads or the power grid.
Carr claims that as a commodity, IT has become part of the infrastructure.
"Infrastructural technologies...offer far more value when shared
than when used in isolation...The characteristics and economics
of infrastructural technologies, whether railroads or telegraph
or power generators, make it inevitable that they will be broadly
shared--that they will become part of the general business infrastructure."
In the Computerworld interview, he's quoted as saying, "we're
already starting to see that the capabilities of the IT infrastructure
are greater than the needs that businesses have."
That's true for long-haul bandwidth and colocation space, but it's
hardly the case for the balance of the infrastructure that will
be required to support the large-scale deployment of web services.
Carr further suggests that "IT is, first of all, a transport
mechanism--it carries digital information just as railroads carry
goods and power grids carry electricity." Here I also disagree.
If all we needed to do was push bits from place to place, he'd be
right, and IT would only consist of routers, switches, and the people
to keep them running. But the medium-term future of IT is to share
business processes, not just the underlying information. To achieve
this end, a great deal more work is needed. This isn't something
that will be commonplace for at least another decade.
"IT is also highly replicable," Carr continues. "Indeed,
it is hard to imagine a more perfect commodity than a byte of data--endlessly
and perfectly reproducible at virtually no cost." But bytes
have implicit value that far exceeds their commodity value. The
contents of a container of orange juice are only worth the price
of the orange juice--unless you're really thirsty. The data that's
stored on our disk drives is far more valuable than the cost to
reproduce or transmit it. Consider what you might pay to recover
the data from a failed disk drive or a lost laptop. Those bytes
are hardly a commodity except in the most abstract sense.
One of his recommendations is, "Follow, don't lead."
But it's not that simple, for if you wait too long, you'll find
yourself in the period of competitive disadvantage, playing catch-up.
Being late is at least as dangerous as being too early to adopt
new technologies. A successful IT strategist needs a methodology
for adoption timing: to get it just right.
In summary, while I agree with Carr that the components of information
technology trend (and always will trend) towards commoditization,
such has yet to occur for web services, which have barely made it
out of the starting gate. Furthermore, there's no reason to believe
that web services will be the last IT development of the 21st century.
So while some elements of IT have already become commodities, and
others are sure to follow, more technologies offering temporary
competitive advantage will continue to surface.
[Carr's article was covered by Steve
Lohr in the New York Times, then Computerworld featured an interview
with Carr as well as a rebuttal of his article by Patricia
Keefe. Information Week's editor-in-chief, Bob
Evans, provided another counterpoint, Craig
Barrett, Intel's CEO, responded at an analysts meeting, and
Steve Lohr wrote another article
in the Times. John
Hagel and John Seely Brown also posted their preliminary counterarguments
to be published in full in HBR's July issue.]
Web Services to Enable $4.3B Hardware Market. As IT moves
to adopt web services, IS managers will end up spending more money
on hardware than on software, an IDC analyst said. Guess they haven't
read Nicholas Carr's article yet.
Posted Friday, May 23, 2003 1:25:33
or OASIS? In this short Computerworld interview, Tim Berners-Lee
succinctly and accurately describes the differences between the
two standards bodies. OASIS is young, and the standards it's created
haven't survived the test of time. While not perfect (and certainly
not fast) W3C has produced standards that are relatively stable.
(I think IETF has been even more successful, but they're not too
involved with this web-services stuff.) Without OASIS pushing things
through quickly, it would take at least a few extra years to achieve
interoperability in the WS-xxx areas such as security and orchestration.
Wouldn't it be great if OASIS took technologies to the point of
interoperability and then submitted them (without patent restrictions)
to W3C? Hey...it could work!
Posted Thursday, May 22, 2003 11:41:34
of OASIS...Thankfully, OASIS appears to be proactively addressing
the security vulnerabilities of web services. This goes beyond developing
YAP (Yet Another Protocol) and gets into the pragmatism of a web-services
world. According to the press release, OASIS announced three activities
surrounding a "vulnerability description language":
The new OASIS group is named the Web Application Security (WAS) Technical Committee.
- a classification scheme for Web security vulnerabilities,
- a model to provide guidance for initial threat, impact and risk ratings, and
- an XML schema to describe Web security conditions that can be used by both assessment and protection tools.
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2003 4:23:14
Services Security--The Book. My on-the-road reading last
week was a great book by Mark O'Neill, CTO of Vordell, and others.
This is the book to date on the topic. I particularly like
the blend of strategy and practice that Mark and the others have
achieved. They've managed to get straight to the point: The best
way to secure web services today is through XML Signature, XML Encryption,
SAML, and WS-Security, and this book explains how those technologies
work. I was able to learn a lot more about these topics than from
the specifications or the online white papers.
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2003 3:36:41
Messaging. I was offline for nearly a week (Blackberry access
only), so I'm just now catching up. One highlight so far is Phil
Wainewright's weblog posting in which he lists three currently available
options for web-services reliable messaging platforms: proprietary,
JMS, and ebXML Message Service (ebMS). Follow the link to the article
Longworth, and read Phil's excerpts from his email exchange
with Jean-Jacques Dubray of ebPML.org.
In fact, none of the above will cut the mustard long term. Microsoft will never accept JMS, and as Phil suggests, the web-services guys just don't want to embrace anything that comes from EDI. I think we'll see reliable messaging evolve during 2004, once the web-services community (primarily through OASIS) finishes security this year.
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2003 4:10:43
Needs SOAP and BPEL? Phil Wainewright also noted that "analysts
at Gartner have backtracked
on their previous definition of a web service, and now concede
that it can be software automation that uses at least one of the
three so-called foundation standards -- SOAP, WSDL or UDDI -- rather
than having to use all three....Whether you use any of the higher-level
web services standards, including SOAP and WSDL, is irrelevant.
the user interface."
Phil is right, of course. From Amazon.com to Salesforce.com, we're
seeing early but important examples of "real" web services that
require not much more than XML over HTTP. I don't agree with Phil,
however, when he writes, "they're starting to realize the power
of connecting best-of-breed resources in a loosely coupled architecture."
I don't see these early implementations as being loosely coupled.
But his overall point is well taken, and one that the REST folks
have been trying to make for some time now.
Posted Thursday, May 22, 2003 7:54:15
Services to Alter Consulting. The rise of web services will
force computer-services companies to dramatically scale back their
systems-integration businesses and focus on other tasks, according
to Jason Bloomberg at research firm ZapThink. (It seemed like this
story got picked up by every newspaper and business magazine in
the country. Good PR, Jason!) [Source: News.com]
Posted Friday, May 23, 2003 1:27:30
IBM and EDS Lead Web-Hosting Market. Research firm Meta Group concluded in a recent report..."The key differentiator in the market is professional services...Challengers AT&T, Verio, and Sprint have solid hosting offerings, but are struggling to expand into high-end services, Meta said. Meanwhile, Qwest Communications and Cable and Wireless suffer from overinvesting during the boom years, and are focused on regaining financial health." [Source: InfoWorld]
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2003 4:51:32
More news on Loosely Coupled...
Books! Teros, a leading application-firewall vendor, will
be giving away free copies to qualified attendees in their booth
at the Gartner
IT Security Summit 2003 in Washing D.C., June 2-4. [Washington
Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, Hours:
12:00-8:00 Monday, 8:00-1:00 Tuesday]
Posted Friday, May 30, 2003 10:55:23
Week's Hottest Title. Loosely
Coupled was #1 among the 3,940 books available for download
from Books24x7. Awesome!
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2003 11:04:26
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