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WS-I members take stand against ‘big-name bias’

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Small and medium sized ISVs are vying to lead an IBM and Microsoft Corp-backed web services organization, amid sentiment the group’s direction is being misdirected by big-name vendors, Gavin Clarke writes

webMethods Inc and Cape Clear Software Inc told ComputerWire yesterday they will stand for election to the board of the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization, in the hope of making the board more representative of common members’ interests.

The vendors are the first companies to be named as candidates as the WS-I has refused to release details, saying its constitution does not require disclosure. To date only Sun Microsystems Inc has been named as a potential candidate for elections, due in March.

webMethods Inc and Cape Clear spoke as it emerged yesterday that WS-I has agreed to add support for Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) attachments to its first major piece of published work, the Basic Profile 1.0 currently in public draft.

Support for SOAP attachments would ensure a standards-based approach is taken in the Basic Profile for adding binary attachments, such as JPEG files, to SOAP messages.

Failure to include SOAP attachments means files must, instead, be encoded in the main SOAP message by a sender and then de-coded by the recipient in a process that reduces the potential efficiency of web service-based communications.

A concerned WS-I source, who didn’t wish to be named, blamed the omission on the fact larger companies are leading the organization. He said these organizations hadn’t seen items like SOAP attachments as important first steps to take.

"[WS-I] is not friendly to small companies - the way the whole direction has been played. I don’t think they saw some things as important until later in the day," the source said.

The source said he is now worried final publication of Basic Profile 1.0 will be delayed by months as the WS-I effectively retrofits SOAP attachments to the draft. "They are now trying to fit the SOAP attachments. This will delay [the profile] by a couple of months." WS-I last October gave early 2003 as its date for publication of the Basic Profile.

Prasad Yendluri, co-editor of WS-I’s Basic Profile and webMethods’ principle architect, said, though, the WS-I yesterday approved inclusion of SOAP attachments in an incremental release of Basic Profile, version 1.1, to avoid impacting delivery of 1.0.

Yendluri said version 1.1 would be published "soon after" version 1.0.

He added SOAP attachments were the subject of early debate but confirmed these were initially discarded from version 1.0. "There has been a recent re-consideration," he said citing member feedback and evolution of version 1.2 of the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) underlying SOAP specification.

The issue, though, is far-from resolved for small- and medium-size companies who constitute the bulk of WS-I’s membership and clearly feel that their interests are not being properly represented by the board. The WS-I’s nine-member board comprises Accenture, BEA Systems Inc, Fujitsu-Siemens, Hewlett-Packard Co, Intel Corp, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle Corp and SAP AG.

Small and medium size companies have seized on elections to two newly created WS-I seats as an opportunity to press their interests more firmly. San Mateo, California-based Cape Clear said it has been "encouraged" to stand by unnamed WS-I peers.

Cape Clear’s candidate Jorgen Thelin, company chief scientist, said: "Ninety eight percent of WS-I membership are small to medium sized companies yet the predominance of the board is large companies. A lot will depend on getting a good, solid mandate from these members."

Thelin said he would seek to increase the WS-I board’s "transparency, improving communications with members, while influencing WS-I direction. He said WS-I’s work to-date didn’t necessarily support companies like Cape Clear who must partner with many companies, unlike bigger vendors who can provide a one-stop-shop for web services.

He said the lack of conformance testing and development tools used to deploy WS-I-based products and services with partners was crucial. Smaller vendors who partner extensively require such tools to ensure interoperability of XML-based communications across partners’ products.

WebMethods, which told ComputerWire it would declare its candidacy within the next two week, said it believes larger vendors cannot properly represent specific issues such as integration in profiles and tools.

Although vendors like IBM offer integration services, Fairfax, Virginia-based webMethods said specialist companies like itself are more aware of issues involved because it’s their core business.

Andy Astor, webMethods’ vice president of enterprise web services and the company’s WS-I candidate, said: "IBM is not just in the integration space... we have focus, clarity of vision and crispness of focus on interoperability and integration."

© ComputerWire

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