Epicentric Offers Web Services Standard

Epicentric Inc. is leading an effort to develop a new standard for accessing Web services through a portal interface.

Epicentric Inc. is leading an effort to develop a new standard for accessing Web services through a portal interface.

The proposed Web Services User Interface, or WSUI, standard from the knowledge management and portal software vendor would allow users to access and interact with Extensible Markup Language- and Simple Object Access Protocol-based Web services as Web applications, regardless of the underlying Web platform or vendor-specific application format.

This would separate development of the back-end business logic in next-generation Web services from development of the front-end presentation layer, according to officials at San Francisco-based Epicentric.

Such a standard could conceivably allow vendors, customers and developers to develop and share Web applications without having to create multiple vendor-specific connectors written for different Web languages, such as Perl, Sun Microsystems Inc.s Java, and Microsoft Corp.s Component Object Model and .Net frameworks, the officials said. At least initially, this interface would be a Web portal, although the WSUI standard would not be limited to portals.

The reaction to WSUI, which was unveiled late last month, has been mixed.

Application developer Greg Kozak said it is a "positive" that Epicentric can provide a strong platform for his company to develop Web services on in the future. But Kozak said that exactly how his company, Hewitt Associates LLC, of Lincolnshire, Ill., would use the portal software to leverage Web services "remains to be seen."

"Im confident well be able to find uses for Epicentric as it relates to Web services," said Kozak, who is developing Web services based on IBMs WebSphere platform and is also an Epicentric customer. "I see it as further confirmation that this is a viable approach were taking."

Six software companies have formed a working group to develop the WSUI standard with Epicentric: Documentum Inc., Intraspect Software Inc., Jamcracker Inc., NewsEdge Corp., Securant Technologies Inc. and YellowBrix Inc. Epicentric is also in discussions to get IBM and Sun to join the group.

Still, other portal vendors, such as Sybase Inc. and Microsoft, have not been invited to the WSUI table yet and know little about the initiative.

Bob Breton, senior director of product strategy at Sybase, of Emeryville, Calif., said Epicentric seems more interested in garnering support for its own standard than in working with others to develop a common framework. "We are certainly interested in standards in this area, but at this stage, the most mature efforts seem to be coming out of the J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] efforts and, I expect, out of the .Net initiatives in the future," Breton said.

Within six months, the WSUI group said it hopes to take a working framework for the standard to the World Wide Web Consortium for a recommendation.