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What does the future hold for WS-I? (part 2)

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?
Click to read part one of this answer

The standardization efforts are happening in the standards bodies. IBM and Microsoft have strong voices, but they certainly don't control what's going on. I think IBM, Microsoft, and Verisign are clearly leading the Web services security efforts. No one else has produced anything to compete with WS-Security, WS-Policy, etc. But the trio has relinquished control of WS-Security by submitting it to OASIS. (although we're still not clear on the IP rights issues for WS-Security) I don't see such clear dominance in the transaction/workflow arena. BTP is an OASIS TC standard, but no one really seems to care at this point. I like WS-Transaction and WS-Coordination. We need specs like these. But what's the legal status of these specs? Who has the rights to implement them? Until we know the answer to these questions, I'd be reluctant to focus too much energy on them. I'm not so sure about BPEL4WS. It's simpler than WSFL, but not by enough. Also, I'm not convinced that we need to standardize a process language. (plus we have the same IP issues) Perhaps something like Sun (et. al.)'s WSCI is sufficient. WSCI is pretty lightweight, but it's a decent starting point. It's been submitted to W3C, and it's royalty free. Meanwhile Sun (et. al.) has published WS-Reliability, which at first glance looks pretty reasonable, and it too is royalty-free. Sun came quite late to the party, but at least now they seem to be getting engaged. And I really like their royalty-free policies. I think that makes the Sun technologies much more appealing than the IBM/Microsoft technologies. If Sun continues to play this way, I think they might become a formidable force.
I don't think end users care so very much about whether the standards embody patents, but the vendors certainly do. The end users care about having products that help them solve problems. And they care (to a lesser extent) about the price of the solution. The vendors build the products that deliver the solution. Web services technology is very low-priced, so there's not a lot of opportunity for profit in this space. The vendors don't want to risk losing their slim profits by paying royalties to IBM and Microsoft. If someone produces a royalty-free alternative for doing something, it's a pretty clear choice if you're a small vendor. Given that no one has established dominance in the area of SOAP extensions yet, I'd say that IBM and Microsoft are on shaky ground if they continue to protect their patent rights.
This was last published in January 2003

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