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Competing standards hurt Web services growth

The current competition among three sets of SOAP reliable messaging standards is complicating work for developers of Web services applications, contends Dave Chappell, vice president and chief technology evangelist at Sonic Software Corp. (http://www.sonicsoftware.com), Bedford, Mass.

The competing standards are confusing, Chappell said, because while none have been adopted and only one of them is under the umbrella of an open standards body, all of them have similar names.

In an article he authored on reliable messaging standards, Chappell explained: "All were recently announced, and all are named under the de facto branding of WS-. There is the OASIS WS-Reliability spec that a large number of vendors, including Sonic, are a part of. There is a one-vendor set of specs announced by BEA recently, known as WS-Acknowledgement, WS-Callback, and WS-MessageData. Then less than two weeks after that announcement, along came another competing specification announced jointly by Microsoft, IBM, BEA, and TIBCO, known as WS-ReliableMessaging and WS-Addressing. So it would seem that BEA is even competing with itself in this area."

In an interview with XML Report, Chappell said he does not anticipate that these three competing standards will be unified in the near future -- bad news for Web services developers.

"The developers need to be flexible as to what the final standard will be because the OASIS WS-Reliability effort is going to continue down a path and I don't think Microsoft and IBM are going to want to join it," he said. "They are going to want to continue to have their own separate spec. And, unfortunately, it's the developers who suffer as a result of this fracture that's happening right now."

His recommendation, which is similar to what analysts from Gartner Group suggest, is that developers should build on a solid infrastructure and remain flexible as to how the emerging XML-based standards will evolve.

"Developers need to consider, in terms of reliable SOAP communications, that regardless of the spec they're using, it still needs a robust, underlying messaging infrastructure," Chappell said. "That's more important than what the header tag looks like in the SOAP message."

He said the OASIS effort, which his company is participating in, is expected to complete work on an initial draft of WS-Reliability 1.0 in the next six months.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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