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Web services projects have been slowed to a crawl by the weak economy, but nearly half of the companies that have...

gotten such efforts started have not abandoned them, according to research released Wednesday by Gartner Inc.

In fact, almost one-third of the 111 IT professionals surveyed by the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm reported that Web services initiatives staved off budget cuts longer than any other technology project in their organizations.

"These survey results show the level of commitment that organizations have toward their Web services development initiatives," Gartner analyst Nicole Latimer said in a statement. "For these organizations, Web services development projects are at the top of the list of company priorities and is one of the last budgets to be raided when budget cuts are made."

At its Enterprise ServerVision conference in May, International Data Corp. estimated that Web services would be a $15.2 billion market by 2008. For this year, IDC predicted that spending on Web services technology will reach almost $3 billion.

Integration remains one of the key drivers of Web services in the enterprise, according to the new Gartner survey. Among those who identified themselves as being involved in a Web services initiative, 54% said they were using the XML-based technology to integrate applications with partners or customers or within their own organization during the next year.

The longer the time frame was projected, the more optimistic -- and ambitious -- survey respondents became. Nearly 40% said they will roll out a Web service within their own organization in the next 12 months. Asked about what they would do within the next 24 months, 65% said they'd have a Web service or services ready for use outside their enterprise as well as within it.

The picture of relative optimism painted by survey respondents may not carry over to vendors, however. Gartner predicted a continued shakeout among software companies offering tools that help users build services that can be shared via the Web.

Latimer said that successful companies in the Web services market will revamp their skills by replacing "commodity technology" with business process and management experts and technology.


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