Despite IBMs tight coupling with Microsoft Corp. in setting key standards in the Web services world, the company continues to make moves to differentiate itself from the Redmond, Wash., software maker in the space.
IBM recently launched what it calls the Web Services Industry Councils, or WSIC, a program in which the company polls customers in various industries about their Web services needs.
The company came up with the idea after customers started responding to existing Web services, said Alistair Rennie, IBMs director of on-demand management and strategy, who oversees the WSIC effort.
"We saw that customers were realizing these [Web services] were real and they were beginning to become part of their architectures, and we wanted to be able to add value," Rennie said.
To wit, IBM moved quickly to create councils of some of its larger customers to discuss requirements and share interests and best practices. The Armonk, N.Y., company has so far set up councils in the United States and Europe in the areas of banking and financial services, industrial and manufacturing, and insurance.
IBM said that it will not only gain insight into customer needs, but that these councils will drive new contributions to standards as well as to sample applications and test samples; they also will become case studies for enterprises concerned about interoperability of Web services.
"I think its a real win-win," Rennie said. "We get better standards faster with customer input."
Angel Diaz, IBMs program director of Web services product management, said the company has been doing a balancing act between itself and Microsoft and others in Web services.
"Weve been walking a fine line between collaboration and competition," he said. "And its because our customers demand that we interoperate. The pie is larger when you interoperate."
Diaz added that he believes the majority of the spoils of this market go to "who implements the standards first, who implements the standards best and who works best with customers."
In that regard, IBM recently announced Version 5.1 of its WebSphere Software Development Kit for Web Services, which features support for all the latest major Web services standards as well as the Web Services Interoperability Organizations Basic Profile, Diaz said.