Proponents of web services technology, such as IBM and Microsoft, often claimed that it would be a universally interoperable, standards-based ‘glue’ that would easily integrate disparate business-to-business applications over the Internet. The sudden formation of the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) last month, however, has put an end to any belief that web services will achieve this goal any time soon.
Indeed, it seems that web services standardisation could become even more difficult than the standardisation of XML schema.
WS-I founders IBM and Microsoft say that their new organisation will help software vendors and users navigate the confusing web services and XML standards environment, and will also certify web services as officially interoperable. However, critics see the formation of the WS-I as proof that web services will be embroiled in years of standard setting before the ideal of application and system independent integration is achieved.
One barrier to standardisation could be the complex political relationships that now exist between the different standards bodies. Those organisations include the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), UDDI.org and the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI).
Other criticisms centre on the lack of WS-I participants. Forrester Research, for example, argues the organisation will need to involve software vendors such as Sun, Siebel, PeopleSoft and i2, and integration vendors such as Vitria and SeeBeyond, before any WS-I standards will be widely accepted.
The research firm also believes web services will not truly gain traction until issues such as identity, authentication, messaging security and service level agreements are addressed, and also industry specific trade formats are standardised and adopted.