More Expected of WS-I

Developers look for more leadership from group.

While the Web Services Interoperability Organization has released its most important deliverable to date, developers are looking for more leadership from the group.

Last week, at the XML Web Services One conference here, WS-I announced the availability of its Basic Profile 1.0, which defines a basic set of specifications for making Web services interoperable.

WS-I Basic Profile 1.0

The Basic Profile includes:

  • Guidelines on how to use specifications to create interoperable Web services
  • Specifications covering SOAP 1.1, WSDL 1.1, UDDI 2.0, XML 1.0 and XML Schema
  • Test tools and sample applications relating to the Basic Profile, due this fall
  • Upcoming features that support SOAP with Attachments and security
Yet, as the Web services landscape advances, users and industry watchers are debating whether the organization may need to provide more active leadership not only in integrating standards, but also in helping to define them.

For instance, there are competing specifications in many areas, such as reliable messaging, federation and attachments, and as those areas become part of the landscape, users will need someone or some organization to provide guidance. Some say WS-I should be that leader.

"Theyre going to have to be a little more brave," said Ronald Schmelzer, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, of Cambridge, Mass. "As much as we say the specifications dont compete, they do. And the WS-I does have a selector role. I dont think OASIS [Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards] or the W3C [World Wide Web Consortium] will say, You take it and give up on their specs."

Bill Stangel, senior vice president and enterprise architect at Fidelity Investments, in Boston, said his company joined WS-I for help moving ahead with Web services, as well as to help move the technology itself.

"Were an early adopter of Web services, and standards are important for giving us ubiquitous use and will allow us to choose technologies," Stangel said. "So groups like the WS-I are important, and we participate to make sure standards keep moving forward."

Tom Glover, WS-I chairman and an engineer at IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., acknowledged some responsibility. "Were going to drift in that direction; were going to start gathering requirements. I expect members to come in and suggest a need for orchestration," Glover said. But, he added, "the temptation is there to turn WS-I into a vehicle to do that ... and the organization could get so big it cant execute."

Glover said he recognizes the need for further integration. "Youve got all these fragmented standards bodies, and you also see a need for a Web services stack," he said. "It could be, looking at the membership [of WS-I], the idea of building a Web services stack could happen."

Don Box, a leading XML architect at Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., spoke at the conference and generally dismissed standards as a hindrance in some cases. "Standardization makes abstraction expensive," Box said. "If I have to get two from every vendor to get onto my ark and sign up for things other than just whats on the wire, Ive got a problem. Its much harder to sell someone on ideas and beliefs—and fictions, which is what abstractions are—versus actually talking about things that are measurable."

Anne Thomas Manes, a vice president and analyst with Burton Group, of Midvale, Utah, said, "I dont think the specs related to reliable messaging, transactions or orchestration are far enough along for WS-I to do anything yet."