WS-I Sorts Out Web Services Specs

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2002-08-26

WS-I Sorts Out Web Services Specs

With the number of Web services standards becoming an alphabet soup, enterprises are looking for assurance that the myriad specifications are interoperable.

The Web Services Interoperability organization, or WS-I, is taking steps to help. The WS-I recently finished an internal version of its first set of guidelines—or profiles—called WSBasic, designed to assist enterprises in developing and running Web services. The beta version is scheduled for release in November, with general availability expected by the end of the year.

The group, formed in February by Microsoft Corp., IBM, BEA Systems Inc., Intel Corp. and others, also wants to play a broker role for the various competing standards bodies, in particular the World Wide Web Consortium and the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards.

Another key to standards interoperability is cooperation among the major standards groups. At the XML Web Services One Conference in Boston this week, the W3C and OASIS will discuss security standards for Web services. WS-I representatives said their groups profiles will give the standards bodies a middle ground to work around.

The WS-I profiles are Web services specifications at specific version levels that include outlines about how they work together, according to Rob Cheng, a senior iPlatform analyst at Oracle Corp. and a spokesman for WS-I, in Redwood Shores, Calif. WSBasic includes the core Web services specifications: XML Schema 1.0, SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) 1.1, WSDL (Web Services Description Language) 1.1 and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) 2.0.

"What were trying to do is create some guidance for Web services and also do implementation guidance and support to help adoption and implementation," Cheng said.

Available with the alpha version of WSBasic are sample applications used to demonstrate Web services interoperating on various platforms—including Windows, Solaris and Linux—and tools to analyze and test interoperability, said John Kiger, director of Web services technologies at BEA Systems Inc., which is one of the WS-Is founding member companies. Sample applications and testing tools will be beefed up as profiles evolve.

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WSBasic will be the building block for profiles that will include other standards, such as WS-Transaction and WS-Security, Cheng said.

Additional profiles will address issues such as message extensibility, routing, correlation, guaranteed message exchange, signatures, encryption, transactions, process flow and inspection. The development of additional or updated WS-I profiles depends on the continued maturity of Web services specifications, Cheng said.

WS-I representatives said they expect that vertical industries will build on the WS-I profiles by adding industry-specific standards to them.

Guidelines are going to be important as enterprises step into the Web services world.

Ferdy Khater, managing director of enterprise application development at Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc., said the profiles could help developers working on applications or Web services in distributed computing environments. For instance, Khater said the guidelines, particularly for SOAP, could help developers recognize what changes might have been made to an object or a piece of code. "The initial start with Web services today shows that everything is working fine, so anything they do with standardization is only going to make things better," he said.

Richard Monson-Haefel, a Web services consultant from Minneapolis, is taking a wait-and-see approach.

"What matters is that the profiles eliminate the ambiguities in [Web services] specifications that cause interoperability problems," he said. "From a developers perspective, the objectives of the WS-I are laudable, but Ill wait to see something tangible before I get too excited about it."

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