MARKHAM, Ont. — Canadian companies will begin deploying long-promised Web services-enabled applications that can talk to each other in the coming year, says a senior IBM Canada executive.

“We’re going to see in the next 12 months customers starting to take steps towards the building of Web services,” Tom Turchet, vice-president of software sales said Tuesday.

Companies are now quietly working with IBM to pilot applications that use new technologies such as WSDL (Web services definition language), SOAP (simple object access protocol) and UDDI (universal description discovery and integration) to allow one company’s app to be embedded in another’s, Turchet said. He wouldn’t identify the pilot firms.

For example, a business traveler filling out a corporate expense request form would find an airline schedule pop up at the appropriate place as he completes the document, instead of having to surf to the airline’s Web site for flight information.

Airlines would be interested in developing such applications with major corporate customers so their schedules would get preference — or exclusivity — over competitors, he said.

Turchet made the remarks in an interview during a press tour of the IBM software lab here.

Many companies are skeptical about the ability to create such applications because of their complexity.

More importantly, noted the Gartner Group in a research note published earlier this month, there are still no agreed standards on such key problems as process management, security and data integrity.

Another difficulty is that while IBM, Microsoft and others have helped create some standards, such as SOAP, there is no independent body able to promote and protect Web services standards as a complete platform-independent set, Gartner says.

However, demand is expected to grow. By 2005, the worldwide market for software that can build Web services-based applications will be worth US$50 million, according to International Data Corp.

Using Web services will help reduce costs and improve the efficiency of IT projects by 30 percent, Gartner predicts. Enterprises should experiment now and resist the temptation to wait for the perfect implementation, it advises.

Microsoft Corp.’s initiative in the area is called .Net, a set of services that will run on Windows software, while Sun Microsystems is promoting a Java-based set of services.

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