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Can small Web services companies survive?

How can the small Web services companies survive? Won't the big boys (IBM, Microsoft, etc) just make Web services a feature of their offering?
Obviously, being CEO of a Web services start-up, I've come to the conclusion that smaller companies can survive!

I think the first thing to note is that the IT business has historically been fuelled by small, start-up companies that are nimble enough to recognize and exploit opportunities. Many of today's giants - BEA or Mercury Interactive come to mind - had very humble beginnings. I was the founder of NetBeans, which started out as garage operation in the Czech Republic, soon after the fall of communism, and went on to be acquired by Sun as a strategic part of Sun ONE. Small companies like this succeed because they come to market quickly with innovative technology, and continue to innovate to stay ahead of competitors.

The second thing to note is that Web Services is a rapidly maturing technology that analyst's IDC predict will be a US$21 billion market by 2007. In 2002, only about 5 percent of enterprises had implemented a Web services project, but by 2007 80 percent will have live implementations. There's plenty of room for innovation in a market this size, especially given the implications Web services suggest for the migration towards an SOA. Systinet was first to market with a commercial product for creating Web services, and because we are small, nimble and focused, we hope to remain first in our industry. Other small Web services vendors are being just an innovative.

Some argue that the standards process is controlled by a few large companies, and excludes smaller players. This simply isn't true. We're active in OASIS, W3C, WS-I and WS-S on a number of initiatives, and in fact Systinet provided the reference implementation for the latest SOAP 1.2 specification. If anything, the standards process levels the playing field and allows smaller companies to compete.

Finally, we need to remember that no matter what large companies do, users see many inherent benefits in working with smaller, independent companies. For us, being able to work in any IT environment - with any application server, database or popular operating system - is a major advantage. Most large vendors supply Web services solutions that are tied exclusively to one of their other platform products.
This was last published in August 2003

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