OK, maybe I'm pushing the Tower of Babel analogy, but the last time you plugged a 3Com switch into a Cisco router, did you preface the event with months of planning and hire a professional services staff to facilitate the exchange of packets between the devices?
Of course not. Ethernet standards have made such events trivial. Concerns about interoperability between network devices have, for the most part, gone the way of the vacuum tube and no longer inhibit implementation of complex networks.
When it comes to applications, though, it's a completely different story. Not because there are no standards--there are--but because application vendors have had little impetus to concern themselves with true interoperability ... until now.
Acceptance of application standards is an essential step in the evolution of the network into an integral part of the business. Applications are not islands. What one application produces, another must consume. What one application manages, another must modify. Applications, like children, should play well with others. Those that do not should be issued a "time-out"--permanently, if necessary.
Conformance to--not just compliance with--application standards should be the norm. Web services standards were developed to provide client, platform and language agnosticism, but Web services implementations have just begun to gain a foothold in the enterprise, and already we're seeing a lack of interoperability between vendor-specific implementations. The possible solution to many of our integration problems is in danger of becoming just another application interface in need of integration.