A leading analyst has said that web services won't take off unless they are sold to the board on the business, rather than the technology, case.
Senior Ovum consultant Neil Macehiter said: "Web services need a business case. What we've got is connection, interface and discovery."
He was referring to the three current web services standards: Simple Object Access Protocol, Web Services Description Language and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration.
Macehiter explained that the development infrastructure for building, testing and deploying web services is about two-thirds complete, but pointed out that the operating infrastructure, including security, reliability, availability and management, is still at an early stage.
He warned that the commercial infrastructure for service management, metering, billing and payment had not even started.
Macehiter revealed research which demonstrated conservative growth for web services. In a market worth $30bn by 2006, only a quarter ($7bn to $8bn) would come from software and infrastructure products.
Another quarter would derive from hosted services, and the rest from systems integration and consultancy services.
Speaking at a debate chaired by Ovum, Andrew Walker, chief technology officer at application integration provider Infogain, said: "Web services are the means not the end. Businesses need to know the benefits."
Peter Bell, business strategy consultant with Microsoft's .Net development group, warned: "[Web services] infrastructure will provide short-term revenues and diminishing returns. Data interoperability itself is not where the profit is."
Trust and security are still issues that need to be resolved in web services, something that is likely to lead to the emergence of web services brokers who will handle transactions between non-trusted partners.
But Ovum predicted that, although this would not become mainstream before 2007, multi-channel web services access through PDAs, and service provider web services hosting, would begin as early as next year.
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