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IBM donates SOAP to Apache XML project

Beats Microsoft to the punch

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There's a bit more to the IBM/Lotus donation of its Simple Object Access Protocol (6,000 downloads from IBM's alphaWorks site) to Apache's XML Project than meets the eye. As Robert Sutor, IBM's XML program director, put it yesterday, IBM does not want the Internet to become "a battleground of competing, vendor-specific 'control points'".

IBM's SOAP4J is the first industry implementation of SOAP version 1.1, Microsoft having missed the expected delivery date for its toolkit.

IBM/Lotus has previously given Apache a couple of XML parsers and Lotus XSL; and after some arm twisting, Sun donated its parser. Apache is analysing XML parsers with a view to creating a single product incorporating the best features of each. It will be interesting to see whether Microsoft, not known as an Apache supporter, manages to do better.

SOAP is one of six XML sub-projects that Apache is working on, the others being Xerces (an XML parser in Java and C++, with PERL and COM); Xalan (XSL stylesheet processors in Java and C++); Cocoon (XML-based publishing); FOP (the world's first print formatter driven by XML - in Java); and Xang (for the rapid development of dynamic server pages in Java).

SOAP itself came about because COM just didn't work with the non-Microsoft world, so when Microsoft raised its head above the parapet with something a bit better, it was an immediate challenge to both IBM and Java.

IBM criticised the first version of SOAP, but Microsoft rather surprisingly agreed to change the spec to be less-favourable to Microsoft software. As a consequence, IBM threw its support behind SOAP and is now at least the co-driver.

At the same time, SOAP must now present some challenges to Microsoft, since it has to interface to both COM and CORBA - Forrester found that the big guys preferred Java/CORBA to Microsoft's own recipes by a 2-to-1 margin.

But will Sun jump off the fence so far as SOAP is concerned? With IBM's Java work for SOAP making this more acceptable, it would be well-advised to do so, especially as it has made a bit of a mess with its Java standardisation efforts and needs to be seen as a better team player. ®

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