BT Group plc, the London-based technology provider formerly known as British Telecommunications, has officially unveiled a wide-ranging set of Web services offerings for the British and European markets, but BT's plans will likely have little impact on the U.S. market.
Late last week the company announced several initiatives to help customers develop and manage Web services through its managed hosting and outsourcing subsidiary, BT Ignite.
Its new offerings include a Web services consulting service, a partnership with Microsoft Corp. allowing BT to use the .NET platform to develop Web services for its internal use and for customers, the creation of a library containing reusable Web services components from third-party software vendors, and other tools to assist companies in piloting, deploying and managing Web services.
Even though BT is one of the first companies to create an end-to-end Web services program -- from determining how a customer would benefit from a Web service to managing multiple Web services outside of a customer's firewall -- the company for now will maintain a limited presence in the United States.
"Because [the Web services market] is an immature market, we're looking to focus initially on the U.K.," said Peter Gandy, head of Web services at BT. "We'll have an initial offering in the U.K. and extend into Europe."
In fact, Nick Jones, Gartner's vice president of infrastructure and application development, said in an e-mail interview that not only is any U.S. impact likely to be small, but the company may also encounter obstacles porting its Web services offerings outside of the United Kingdom.
"Some of these issues, like the component library, would presumably be accessible from anywhere in the world," Jones said. "But others, like advice and the managed service elements, would be specific to a single country.
"Some of the proposed Web services components that perform financial functions, such as credit card fraud validation, may be impacted by different legislation in different countries, so even the Web services may not be portable."
Gandy said BT is getting involved with Web services because of demand from its major corporate customers, though the company hopes to garner new customers in the application management space as interest in Web services increases.
The one element of BT's plans that has direct U.S. ties involves its Web services management strategy. Its Web Services Management Layer tool for keeping tabs on Web services security and performance is based on technology from Web services networking firm Flamenco Networks Inc., which is based in Alpharetta, Ga.
Despite its new partnership with Microsoft, Gandy said BT will also work with Java vendors including Sun Microsystems Inc., IBM Corp. and BEA Systems Inc., because it doesn't want to impose its choice of technology on its customers.
Though it has spent the last 18 months developing and refining its Web services technology, BT's Web services network manager, Simon Walker, said the technology won't likely be prevalent outside of corporate firewalls for another four or five years.
"People aren't going to put their B2B interfaces out there on the Internet with today's standards," Walker said. "People need to get more confident and prove that the Web services can do what they want."
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