Web Services Description Language (WSDL) 1.1 now in the Hands of W3C
- By John K. Waters
- March 26, 2001
SAN JOSE, CA—The cause of open standards moves forward apace. The latest development:
The W3C has accepted the submission of the 1.1 release of the Web Services Description
Language (WSDL) specification for standardization. The submission by WSDL co-authors
IBM and Microsoft, along with 23 other companies, represents the highest number
of co-submitters ever on a specification contributed to the W3C. Among the companies
endorsing the WSDL submission were Ariba, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Intel and
Commerce One. The previous record was 11 co-submitters of the Simple Object
Access Protocol (SOAP), also co-authored by Big Blue and MS.
WSDL is an XML-based language used to describe programs accessible via the
Internet (or other networks), and the message formats and protocols used to
communicate with them. WSDL is important because it enables Web services to
describe their capabilities in a standard way, which allows for easier interoperability
among Web services and development tools.
"We spent the 90s working out the standards for Web documents, things like
HTML," said Bob Sutor, IBM's program director for e-business standards strategy
in Somers, NY. "What we need now is a similar stack of standards for the way
we use the Web for business. And that boils down to open standards. It's got
to be about interoperability."
According to Sutor, WSDL complements the UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery
and Integration) registry, the cross-industry initiative designed to accelerate
and broaden business-to-business integration and commerce on the Internet. The
UDDI initiative was intended to form a collection of registries and databases
describing what businesses do and how to access their services electronically.
"WSDL gives us a good start toward helping people to describe their services
in a standard way," Sutor said. "UDDI helps people to publish [those services]."
WSDL was developed outside of the UDDI group and will either formally be submitted
to the coalition for a specification or be submitted to a separate standards
organization. Sutor said WSDL would not be the only choice for describing Web
services. Microsoft and IBM felt it made sense to combine their efforts, he
said. "This is a straightforward merger of the two approaches," Sutor said.
"They were very close to begin with."
IBM is sponsoring a W3C workshop, scheduled for April, focusing on Web services
descriptions, security, reliability, and workflow. Co-chaired by David Fallside,
IBM's senior technical staff member for XML standards development and head of
the W3C's XML Protocol working group, the workshop's mission is to facilitate
discussion on what new standards activities in the Web services area should
be started and how to best implement these working groups quickly and efficiently.
After the workshop, the W3C is likely to set up several working groups relating
to Web services, Sutor said. It is within its working groups that the W3C develops
its specifications. In this case, the working groups would be starting with
a fairly advanced version of WSDL, but the process is bound to change it. The
W3C established the XML Protocol Working Group in response to last year's IBM/Microsoft
The WSDL specification is currently available on IBM's developerWorks Web
site and Microsoft's site. IBM, although fully supporting the open standards
approach, was never one to wait around for the specs to arrive fully cooked.
The company is offering developers the WSDL Toolkit, the Web Services Toolkit,
the Web Services Development Environment, and other tools for SOAP and UDDI,
all available from its alphaWorks Web site.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached
at [email protected].