Web Services Interoperability May Get Chaotic

Fifteen companies, including some leading high-tech vendors, have launched the Web Services Test Forum (WSTF) to speed up Web services interoperability testing among their products.

They include IBM (NYSE: IBM), Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), Cisco (NASDAQ:
CSCO), Red Hat (NYSE: RHT), TIBCO (NASDAQ: TIBX), and automaker Ford Motor (NYSE: F).

“We view this as a complement to the processes standards bodies have,” Karla Norsworthy, IBM’s vice president of software standards, said today at a teleconference announcing the WSTF. “We can’t wait for the processes to be complete before we start testing.”

However, the move may ignite a battle among standards bodies because Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is not signing on.

Microsoft declined an invitation to join the forum, IBM’s Norsworthy said. “I think we all have ways to continue to test with Microsoft and will continue to do that,” she added. “But we would love to have them join.”

Paul Cotton, Microsoft’s group manager, Web services standards and partners, told InternetNews.com by e-mail that the company has not heard of customer interest in the creation of new, alternative interoperability organizations such as that recommended by the WSTF proposal.

“Microsoft is deeply committed to Web services interoperability, as evidenced by our long-standing involvement in the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization,” Cotton said. “WS-I is a cross-industry initiative designed to accelerate the development and deployment of interoperable Web services across platforms, applications and programming languages.”

Microsoft believes that WS-I provides a proven and open organization and process that best suits its customers’ needs, Cotton added. WS-I, the Web Services Interoperability Organization, is an open industry organization chartered to establish best practices for Web services interoperability for selected groups of Web services standards.

Never friends forever

Microsoft has previously worked with IBM, VeriSign (NASDAQ: VRSN) and RSA, the security arm of storage vendor EMC (NYSE: EMC) to develop the WS-Federation specification. This uses XML and other Web services criteria to define mechanisms that let developers manage and establish trust relationships across companies and domains that use different types of security solutions.

“The range of standards organizations such as OASIS, W3C, and more consensus-driven efforts like WS-I, and vendor driven efforts all have their own good points, but they highlight the need for a more lightweight open test community,” Steve Harris, senior vice president of Oracle’s Java platform group, said. OASIS, the W3C and WS-I all develop Web services standards.

OASIS, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, is a not-for-profit consortium driving the development, convergence and adoption of open standards that brags it produces more Web services standards than any other organization. These are in the security and e-business fields, and OASIS is also prominent in standardization efforts in the public sector and for application-specific markets.

Laura DiDio, principal at analyst firm ITIC, said the establishment of the WSTF does not signal an end run around existing standards bodies. “The IBMs and Oracles in this consortium all jump up and are the first to join standards bodies because whoever gets the most voices on the standards committees gets to play a key role in establishing the standard,” she told InternetNews.com.

“But sometimes these standards can take years to get to final inception and approval, so you have to create an ad hoc or de facto standard,” DiDio added. She advocates speed because customers take at least a year to decide on new technology and knowing in advance that new services will be interoperable will help them make their decisions.

The WSTF has put up a Web site that contains information and scenarios for best practices. IBM’s Norsworthy is confident that WSTF will attract members.

“A lot of customers will choose to provide input on what scenarios are important and will learn from the best practices,” she said. “A number of customers will join because they want to influence the scenario more directly.”

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