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What does the future hold for WS-I?

Other experts' 2003 predictions listed include the maturation of WS-I from PR nexus to an effective standards body. Do you think that's likely? Will Verisign/IBM/MSFT own the space, after the vaporware stage? Do business users care about whether standards embody heavily patented stuff or proprietary slant? Won't WS-I just break up, like ebXML did, as soon as one or two of the big vendors get tired of playing on a level field?
<WS-I>
WS-I isn't really a standards body. It's more of a guidance body. WS-I isn't defining new standards. WS-I is clarifying how to use existing standards to ensure easier interoperability. The Basic Profile defines a "least common denominator" approach to Web services. This effort is critical at the moment given that we're building applications based on non-standardized, imprecise specifications (SOAP 1.1 and WSDL 1.1). I think WS-I is already quite effective. It produced the WS-I Basic Profile draft in a remarkably short period of time, especially considering the number of member companies. (The more people that participate, the harder it is to reach consensus.) The draft is already having an effect on the industry. Vendors are moving to ensure full support for Document/Literal. RPC/Encoded is becoming something to avoid. New standards development is happening at W3C (SOAP 1.2, WSDL 1.2, WS-Arch, and XKMS) and at OASIS (UDDI, BTP, WSS, XACML, SAML, DSS, MGMT, WSIA/WSRP, Translation, etc.). I'm hoping that WS-I won't be necessary in the future once we've adopted the new standards. But as I said in my predictions, SOAP 1.2 might be completed and finalized by Q2 of this year, but it's not likely to see wide adoption until next year. WSDL 1.2 won't be finished until sometime next year. I suspect that WS-Arch will take even longer. I think we'll need WS-I for at least a couple of years. And all the vendors have an incentive to stay involved. The whole premise behind Web services is interoperability. Proprietary extensions just don't fly in this business.
</WS-I>
<owningTheSpace>
By "owning the space", do you refer to dominating WS-I, or are you referring to all of Web services? Certainly IBM and Microsoft have a significant influence on WS-I and the various standards bodies. They also seem to produce a lot of good ideas that will help Web services mature. They invited Verisign to join their efforts regarding security (very smart move). They invited BEA to join their efforts regarding transactions (also a very smart move). But do they "own the space"? I'm not sure I'd go that far.
<Microsoft>
Microsoft "owns" Web services on the .NET platform. There's no doubt about that. They have no competition. Since everyone wants to interoperate with .NET, Microsoft's implementations have a very strong influence on the entire Web services space. I would say that if anyone "owns" Web services, it's Microsoft.
</Microsoft>
<IBM>
I don't think that IBM has nearly as much clout. IBM doesn't "own" Web services on the Java platform. IBM "owns" only a tiny percentage of the Java market. Apache, BEA, Borland, Cape Clear, IONA, Macromedia, Oracle, Sun, Systinet, and The Mind Electric share the Java platform with IBM. Sun "owns" JAX-RPC and J2EE 1.4, which have a very strong influence on Web services on Java. IBM "owns" JSR 109, which will have some impact, but not nearly as much as JAX-RPC and J2EE.
</IBM>
<Verisign>
Verisign is a dominating player in Web services security as well as a strong player in all Web services standardization activities. But Verisign is not in the same league as IBM, much less Microsoft. I value and appreciate Verisign's willingness to open source its WS-Security technology.
</Verisign>

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This was last published in January 2003

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