Web services still might be in the early-adopter stage, but that's not stopping vendors from aligning their management tools with the nascent technology.

Computer Associates is scheduled to ship Unicenter Web Services Distributed Management (WSDM), the first Web-services-focused tool from a major management vendor. BMC Software, HP and IBM are expected to soon follow, and the three companies are working with CA on a Web services management standard that promises to allow interoperability.

The Web services management market is already abuzz with activity from smaller companies such as Confluent Software, which this week will unveil an upgrade to its Web Services Management Platform that includes quality of service, life cycle management, and clustering and load-balancing features. Others in this market include Actional, Amberpoint, Blue Titan, Digital Evolution and Infravio.

Despite all the activity, experts warn end users to be patient.

"Most IT buyers are not ready to buy all this management stuff because the complexity of their Web services infrastructure is not there yet," says Nick Gall, senior vice president of technology research services at Meta Group. "The established vendors are on top of this space, and the start-ups will likely move into specific niches, get acquired or disappear." Gall says it's good that vendors are getting their feet wet now because IT will be looking for management help as Web services explodes over the next three years.

The major vendors have other reasons for the early start, in that their efforts will support their utility computing strategies, which promise to help IT build data centers with intelligent hardware and smart software.

"Web services management also is a key part of the movement toward service-oriented architectures, which is a new approach to organising an enterprise data center," says Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with ZapThink. "Connecting Web services to on-demand computing is all part of treating software as components that you can reuse."

CA's Unicenter WSDM was developed using Service Oriented Management and Monitoring Architecture, which the company acquired when it bought Adjoin earlier this year. The software monitors Web services messages as they pass among endpoints within a service-oriented architecture. It also automatically discovers Web services on a network and sets health-monitoring levels. The ability to examine the XML message stream differs from the traditional management practice of embedding agents in each system component.

The WSDM platform, which runs on Linux, Solaris and Windows, requires and a minimum of two servers and costs $50,000.