WS-I Basic Profile 1.0 Makes Debut

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2003-08-12

WS-I Basic Profile 1.0 Makes Debut

BOSTON—After a long period of hype around Web services, the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) Tuesday announced the official delivery of the WS-I Basic Profile 1.0.

The WS-I Basic Profile 1.0 is a set of specifications that guarantees Web services interoperability if users adhere to the profiles guidelines and vendors include WS-I BP 1.0 support in their implementations. The profile identifies how Web services specifications should be used together to create interoperable Web services.

Although, the WS-I BP 1.0 has been available as a draft standard in public review and many have seen it, the formal announcement means several vendors will get behind the profile to guarantee that their offerings adhere to the standard, thus eliminating a lot of the research and guess work customer organizations had to go through to find interoperable implementations.

Essentially, the WS-I Basic Profile consists of proven technologies to ensure that systems that utilize it will be interoperable. The specifications covered by the Basic Profile include Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) 1.1, Web Services Description Language WSDL (WSDL) 1.1, Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) 2.0, XML 1.0 and XML Schema.

Rob Cheng, a senior product manager at Oracle Corp. and chair of the WS-I marketing committee, said when he talks to customers about Web services, "the real things they focus on are that companies will not have to worry about plumbing anymore. This [BP 1.0] will reduce cost and complexity and will reduce early adopter risks. The Basic Profile 1.0 lays the foundation for all the future work well be doing."

Mark Hapner, chief Web services strategist at Sun Microsystems Inc. and Suns representative on the WS-I board, said "from a developers perspective, this means developers dont have to delve into the details of the technologies and try to pick and choose what will work. Now theres unanimity amongst the vendors, and theres an underlying set of scenarios represented by the WS-I sample applications."

Later in the fall, the WS-I says it will release test tools and sample applications to support the Basic Profile 1.0, available in both C# and Java.

"The test suite will allow a developer to get a very specific analysis about whether theyre compliant [with the BP 1.0] spec or not, and if not, what the issues are," Hapner said.

Next page: Java community banking on WS-I Basic Profile

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Meanwhile, the Java environment has pinned its Web services future on the WS-I Basic Profile. The Java Community Profile "has made WS-I Basic Profile 1.0 compliance a required part of the J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] 1.4 certification," Hapner said.

"While this delivers a basic level of interoperability, its very functional," Hapner said. "It really allows a level of development and investment in Web services that was missing before. And it is usable today for the first generation of Web services."

Tom Glover, chairman of WS-I and an IBM engineer, said the primary goal of the initial version of the WS-I Basic Profile is to get to a base level of interoperability, "and we will move to enhanced levels from there, including security and other features." Glover highlighted the overall industry support for the profile.

Cheng said WS-Is near-term work will focus on security issues; first the organization will attack SOAP with Attachments and then a Basic Security Profile.

"I view the WS-I Basic Profile as a very important document that addresses and solves many of the basic interoperability issues associated with Web services," said Anne Thomas Manes, vice president and research director of the Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group. "The SOAP 1.1 and WSDL 1.1 specifications contain a number of ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors. These ambiguities leave the specifications open to interpretation, and not all vendors interpret them the same way. These specifications require formal clarification. The specifications also provide the developer with quite a few options in how to build Web services, and all these options simply compound the interoperability issues.

"The WS-I Basic Profile defines a set of constraints. These constraints clarify the SOAP 1.1, WSDL 1.1 and UDDI 2.0 specifications, removing all the ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors associated with these specifications. These constraints also reduce the number of options that a developer can use when building Web services. If developers build services within the guideline defined by the WS-I Basic Profile, those services should be interoperable," Manes said.

However, Manes added: "The biggest constraint in the WS-I Basic Profile is that it disallows the use of the SOAP Encoding system. SOAP Encoding is one of two ways to encode a SOAP message. The other way is to encode the message using an XML Schema definition. Normally, you use SOAP Encoding with RPC-style messages and a literal schema definition with Document-style messages. People refer to these message styles as RPC/Encoded and Document/Literal. So WS-I BP prohibits RPC/Encoded."

Next page: Challenges Facing WS-I

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Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, Cambridge, Mass., has a different view.

"At this point in time, the WS-I faces two great challenges, one internal and one external," Bloomberg said. "Their internal challenge is recruiting more IT end-user members. To be truly relevant, they must have a balance between vendors and end-users, and their membership is currently skewed toward vendors.

"The second challenge they face is one of timing. Because the WS-I interprets standards but does not create them, they necessarily lag the market. So while the difficult Web services standards questions being hammered out today involve security, reliability and management, the WS-I Basic Profile concerns SOAP and WSDL. Theres nothing the WS-I can do to accelerate their process, but this fact does diminish the appearance of relevance in the short term," he said.

Ron Schmelzer, Bloombergs ZapThink colleague added: "In general, I think the WS-I is doing a good job of staying above the fray in the current, noisy Web services specifications environment. As they establish the value of the WS-I Profiles, hopefully software vendors will realize that its in their best interests to make sure they are all truly interoperable. Having the WS-Is stamp of approval will be one way to prove to the public that they are as interoperable as they claim. As the WS-I tackles more tricky profiles—such as security, management and process—these stamps of approval will become increasingly more important."

Microsoft issued a statement on the WS-I news, which said: "Microsoft applauds the ratification of the Basic Profile 1.0, and sees it as a significant milestone, taking the industry a step closer to ensuring Web services are able to interoperate across heterogeneous systems. With companies across the industry providing support for the Basic Profile 1.0, such as Microsofts support in technologies such as Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework, we expect the momentum to continue towards the industrys goal of interoperability."

Bob Sutor, director of WebSphere Infrastructure Software at IBM, said IBM is the first major company to provide support for WS-I BP 1.0. "WebSphere Studio offers support to make sure the Web services you create are in tune with the Basic Profile and you can validate it."

The WS-I announced that more than 25 WS-I member companies announced support for the Basic Profile.

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