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Politics hurting web services - Gartner

These standards 'ain't what they used to be

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Vendor politics are clouding development of web services specifications and causing confusion and adding unnecessary complexity.

That's according to Gartner, which has added its voice to a growing chorus of concern that the industry is moving away from simplified interoperability between different platforms - which was one of the original visions for web services.

David Mitchell Smith, a Gartner fello,w said vendors could differentiate themselves by taking a step back from the hype, and offering a simple approach to the web services that they advance through the standards process and support in their products.

Instead, vendors view standards as part of their competitive advantage. "The standards process is very political and there's a lot of perception of leadership", he said, with the leadership role based on who can define standards, who participates in the standards process, and who implements standards.

Smith singled out the "WS splat", an ever-expanding tangle developed - invariably - by IBM, Microsoft and their various allies in one camp and Sun, Oracle and their own supporters in the rival camp.

Examples include Web Services Reliability and WS-ReliableMessaging: the former is already with the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and the latter is headed that way.

The World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C's) Web Services Description Language (WSDL) 2.0 is another bone of contention. WSDL 2.0 twice references WS-Addressing, another specification developed by IBM, Microsoft, BEA Systems and SAP.

WS-Addressing was conceived by the vendors to provide reliable transfer of messages between multiple end points while WSDL describes network end-points using XML. WS-Addressing was submitted to the W3C just over a year ago.

"That completely violates one of the principles web services people have had from day one - to keep it simple and modular. That's a giant red flag to say things are not working," Smith said of the WSDL 2.0 and WS-Addressing combination.

W3C architecture Domain Leader Philippe LeHegaret, responding separately, said WS-Addressing is not required to implement WSDL 2.0 and WS-Addressing is not required to support WSDL 2.0. LeHegaret said it made sense for WSDL to point to WS-Addressing because WS-Addressing is a "fundamental piece" of the web services architecture.

Smith made his comments yesterday at Gartner's Symposium and IT/xpo 2005. ®

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