Software giant Microsoft has been pouring hundreds of millions of development and marketing dollars into web services and it appears to be paying off. The question is: Is it mostly converting the converted?
According to a US study by Evans Data, four out of five web services developers do most of their development work on Windows, and the same proportion are targeting Windows servers to run their web services applications. Only a small minority use Linux workstations, the main alternative.
More significantly, in a crowded market, half of all developers said they use Microsoft's .NET technology, rather than the rival J2EE set of technologies promoted by IBM, Sun, BEA and others.
Although the main findings of the survey are likely to be seen in the Microsoft community as a sign that Microsoft is steadily gaining ground in the battle over alternative technologies, other results in the survey raise questions about the type of web services that many developers are working on.
Asked about standards, for example, most did not use either WSDL (web services description language) or UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration). Similarly, commonly used security standards, such as SSL, which pre-date web services, are much more commonly used than emerging XML security standards.
The results, although encouraging for Microsoft, suggest that the picture is more fragmented than the headline figures suggest. Many developers may be simply using the tools they are used to, without having made a conscious attempt to fully understand or embrace new web services products or standards. Microsoft, for example, has effectively embedded SOAP and XML into its .NET family of products, which is widely used.
Rival vendors, including BEA and IBM, are in the process of overhauling their products in an attempt to make them more easier to use and more attractive to .NET developers. Most analysts agree that Microsoft is gaining ground, but also say that the market for web services tools is still in its infancy.