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By John Taschek  |  Posted 2003-04-28 Print this article Print

Until mid-2002, there was no clear contender for Web services orchestration. WSCI was the specification to beat, but it was controlled by Sun, Oracle and SAP (an acronym for SOS, by the way). Late last year, it looked like BPEL was gaining steam, and finally the SOS call failed to be heeded. It was officially left stranded when Microsoft, IBM and BEA released BPEL to OASIS in mid-April, thus killing any competing choreography standard.

So there it is—the history of a specification that became a standard simply because of the clout of three big companies. At one time, standards became standards because a) they were de facto and in place because a behemoth vendor had tremendous presence in the market with a product—think Microsoft Word; or b) the standards bodies agreed through debate and comment to make an underlying communication foundation a reality through a specification—think the W3C.

Were now entering a phase in which standards become standards before the vendors have products and before the specification is fully debated and realized. Its standardization by market dominance, and IBM and Microsoft, with BEA as a tag-along, have mastered how this should happen. The vendors involved could not care less about customers. Theyre seeing things long before customers see them—as if they were visionaries when theyre actually just big-time capitalists. The problem is that Web services orchestration is years ahead of what most companies want or need to do now. But these vendors are going at it, spiting customers because they can. By the time customers are set to implement, the vendors will be aligned, and customers will have to go with one of the big-three vendors.

Its not just the customers that got dinged; however, it appears that the W3C also got dinged. It would have been a likely candidate to maintain BPEL4WS, but the big three put BPEL into OASIS.

Fortunately, it signals a real division; W3C operates at a lower level and is concerned about the Web. OASIS is the business division of the specification world; all the vendor-led specs run through OASIS, including BPEL, SAML, ebXML and UDDI. Its also business-friendly and, in these times of competitive business practices, the more important standards body.

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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