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Competitors join to submit WS-Addressing spec

The pursuit of standards in the software industry makes for strange bedfellows. A case in point is the recent collaboration of BEA Systems, IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Sun Microsystems on the Web services specification, WS-Addressing, which the group submitted last week to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Addressing is a mechanism for identifying and exchanging Web services messages among multiple end points. The WS-Addressing spec seeks to define a standard for this process.

WS-Addressing is one of the core specifications needed to complete the Web services stack, says Edward Cobb, VP of architecture and standards at BEA Systems, San Jose, Calif. "We have SOAP and WSDL that are pretty widely adopted at the moment, and there are other standards that are based on this paradigm of loose coupling," Cobb says. "You need some basic addressing mechanisms that are not present in the underlying transports like HTTP. Addressing provides those fundamental mechanisms used by the higher-level specifications."

With a standard way to express where a message should be delivered on a Web services network, developers are able to simplify Web services communication and development, and avoid having to develop ad hoc solutions that are often difficult to interoperate across platforms, Cobb says.

WS-Addressing is designed to underlie other specifications in the WS-* stack, such as WS-ReliableMessaging, WS-Federation and WS-AtomicTransaction.

Microsoft and IBM get credit for starting this ball rolling, with BEA joining early in the process. Sun and SAP joined later, but their participation adds to the overall mission to develop open industry standards to drive widespread adoption of Web services. "The co-authors of this specification look forward to future collaboration in bringing together a cohesive Web services architecture," according to a joint statement by the firms.

"Our customers are interested in a single set of standards in this space," says Bill Smith, Sun's director of software standards. "We're joining our competitors in supporting this specification because our customers want products that interoperate. The best way to achieve that is through a set of open standards. We saw this as an opportunity to help influence that process and get things into an open organization like the W3C and eventually end up with a single standard in the addressing space. That's good for all concerned."

"There's a generally held belief that we should all work together to make a bigger pie," says BEA's Cobb. "Some of us might get a smaller piece, but we'll end up with more pie."

The W3C, which is a member organization, will charter a working group to hash out the technical details of the specification. All members will be invited to participate. Once the working group has finished its work, the entire membership will determine the final form of the spec.

To encourage adoption, the co-authors will not charge royalties in conjunction with WS-Addressing, the companies say.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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