CNet has an article on ZapThink's latest report on the demise of companies paying consultants big integration fees because Web services will make integration a non-issue. ZapThink is a big fan of Web services and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) but I think their analysis is on target even if they seem a little overly committed to the Web service way.
I didn't shell out the $995 to read the actual report but I agree with the concept and this is definitely a key reason for the success of Web services now and in the future. Someday integration will just be a given because of Web services and you won't even have to think about it.
But what is really cool about Web services today is that the technology and cross-platform support is already on most platforms. This makes the integration job a snap. Got a COM+ object, wrap it in a Web service. Got a Java Bean, wrap it in a Web service. Got anything that you want cross-platform access for, wrap it in a web service. Job done.
So I see a ton of consulting money over the next couple years simply taking legacy systems and throwing a web service wrapper around them. This probably won't be done just for the sake of having a Web service interface, but it will probably be done so that the marketing folks can see that sales data from the mainframe. The tools are already there so they should be pretty quick jobs.
The SOA vision will really take hold when all these legacy systems that had a Web service wrapper placed around them so that their data could be accessed for one particular reason, will find that accessing the data for other applications will be a breeze. Add the fact that any new systems developed will pretty much have web service support by default. Suddenly people will be able to pull information together without having to think at all about who or what platform they are talking to. You will be able to do from within your spreadsheets, in the VB Winform app you put together, from your server side application or web application, from your Word document...wherever.
It will be really cool.