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Tech Firms Forge Web Services Consortium

A slew of technology firms leaders Thursday forged the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) Organization to facilitate to accelerate the development and deployment of interoperable Web services across a variety of platforms, applications and programming languages.

The group's founders include Accenture, BEA , Hewlett-Packard , IBM , Intel , Microsoft , and SAP, but it is open to all organizations who want to promote interoperability among Web services. The members said its mission is to provide implementation guidance to support customers deploying Web services.

More specifically, WS-I will create a suite of tools and materials for testing implementation and conformance with Web services standards such as XML, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI. Tests will be self administered and aimed at uncovering errors in specification implementations to improve interoperability between applications and across platforms.

Daryl Plummer, group vice president and research group director at Gartner Group, called the formation of the group an obvious necessity.

"Ensuring that Web services implementations interoperate across heterogeneous platforms is crucial to furthering the evolution of Web services and driving customer adoption," Plummer said. "WS-I is an expected and necessary industry initiative that will address the key issue of interoperability, which is instrumental in moving Web services to the next level of acceptance and adoption."

Rod Smith, vice president of Emerging Technology at IBM said: "The momentum of vendors and the cross-industry commitment behind WS-I demonstrate that the Web services community is maturing and focusing on customer needs. WS-I will speed the worldwide adoption of Web services by providing critical interoperability guidance and testing materials that work across multiple platforms."

A variety of firms has already signed on to support WS-I: AutoDesk, Cape Clear, Compaq Computer, Corillian, Dassault Systems, J.D. Edwards, Epicor, Flemenco Networks, Fujitsu, Grand Central Networks, Inc., Groove Networks, Iona, Kana, Macromedia, McAfee, Pivotal, Plumtree, Qwest Communications, Real Names, Reuters, Toshiba and Versata Inc.

And while Sun Microsystems Inc. is perhaps conspicuously absent from this list of members, the company said in published reports that it had not yet had a chance to analyze what is involved with membership. The networking giant said, however, that it sounded interesting.

Web services has garnered much attention in the past year, and no firm has faciliated this as much as Microsoft, which is releasing an important piece of its own architecture, Visual Studio .NET, next week. But even with such releases on the horizon, research firms generally feel that widespread adoption is a ways off.

Jupiter Media Metrix, for one, said only 16 percent of U.S. companies will use Web services technology in the next year to discover and interact with new business partners. Rather, JMM said adoption would be closer to 18 to 24 months. Until that time, enterprises will more likely be used to tie enterprises' internal applications together.

"Visions of companies dynamically 'discovering' and collaborating with suppliers and partners through Internet-facilitated interactions is still within reach but the most realistic opportunities for companies over the next 18-24 months is to use the Web services software for cutting costs," according to JMM research director and senior analyst David Schatsky.

Schatsky offered this advice: "But business managers, who are increasingly involved in application vendor selection, should become aware of the increasing role that Web services will have in the selection and deployment of enterprise applications. Jupiter expects that enterprise application vendors will begin to remake pieces of their applications around the Web services architecture by late 2002."