Web Services get Down and Dirty
War of the Press Releases
Systems management will likely be the final area where a major XML web services standard is published, with specifications expected from vendors and standards bodies early next year,writes Gavin Clarke
IBM web services guru Bob Sutor told ComputerWire a specification featuring the WS- moniker would soon appear tackling areas such as systems diagnostics, monitoring and repair. Sutor said this would likely close a period of intense recent activity.
During that intense period, IBM has worked with Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp and a revolving door of affiliates to develop different XML specifications and protocols, such as WS-Security and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).
These specifications and protocols are slowly coming to define web services but some companies - notably Santa Clara, California-based Sun Microsystems Inc - have remained absent from much of this work.
Instead, Sun has dubbed the flurry of web services work a "press-release war" marked by vendors who compete to new release standards or to be associated with IBM and Microsoft efforts. Sun says it prefers to support standards that stand the test of time, like IP and Ethernet.
Press release war or not, Sutor said the window on this period of activity is now closing. IBM's director of e-business standards estimates there are approximately six to nine-months left for the publication of "big picture" web services standards, like the next WS-Security. Going forward, work will focus on refining protocols and standards.
Systems management, so far overlooked, will likely be the last specification. "Next year you will see some things come from us and somewhere in standards organizations. Our folks in Tivoli are interested in this and some folks in Oasis are interested in this," Sutor said.
He was unable to cite any specific examples of activity taking place inside either IBM's Tivoli unit or Oasis (the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards). Instead, he said things were still at a "talking stage".
Sutor said it is possible to standardize basic systems management functionality - such as dials and session information - as an XML-based standard, and thus a web service. This would mean users and vendors do not have to needlessly re-invent basic functionality in future systems management software products or services.
"[You] get the wonderful elegance of the re-use of the technology," Sutor said.
He said specifications for systems management would be valuable to IBM's strategies of autonomic computing - where systems would adapt to changing conditions and even heal themselves - and grid computing, of systems sharing networked computing resources such as processing for specific tasks.
"IBM can build these things... but autonomic and grid computing - that's where we are going to really see the value of web services," Sutor said.
Systems management is a far cry from the flashy, consumer-oriented vision of web services envisioned nearly two years ago. In March 2001 Microsoft and partners unveiled 14 proposed web services called .Net My Services which included an electronic address book, e-mail and voice mail inbox.
Joining Microsoft were America Express, among others, which demonstrated Notifications and Payment based on .NET My Services.
Sutor said it had been a "mistake" to over emphasize business-to-consumer web services at such an early stage. Instead, Sutor said, web services form the plumbing that is designed to link companies' servers and systems, behind the scenes.
"Using web service for real-world enterprise applications is going to work fine, as we are going to be connecting the enterprise," he said. "This has been and enterprise play for us all along."