SAN MATEO (05/10/2000) - Several industry heavyweights took a step closer in their quest to create an XML-based standard for linking applications and services over the Internet Monday night, as the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) acknowledged the submission of SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) Version 1.1 for its review.
Primarily authored by Microsoft Corp., Userland Software, and DevelopMentor, SOAP 1.1 seeks to create a lingua franca for linking applications and services on the Internet, Microsoft officials said.
Several other companies have also stepped up in support of the protocol, including IBM Corp, Hewlett-Packard, Ariba, Compaq, Commerce One, and Lotus.
"Right now [Internet applications] don't really have a native way of richly communicating with each other," said John Montgomery, product manager at Microsoft. "This is the first step in creating a standard."
Microsoft officials said the protocol includes three basic parts: a framework for describing what is in a message and how to process it; a set of encoding rules for expressing instances of application-defined data types; and a convention for representing remote procedure calls and responses.
Montgomery said that SOAP is the first of what Microsoft hopes will be a series of protocols introduced to further what he calls the company's "Web services vision" of getting different applications to talk together over the Internet.
"The key to these protocols is that they are open and anyone can build on top of them and implement them," Montgomery said.
Montgomery added that the demand for SOAP comes from the top down in IT businesses, as CEOs and CIOs are raising their standards and expectations, looking for better way to more easily link in partners.
"Ultimately, CIOs and CEOs are struggling with integration," Montgomery said.
"[With SOAP] integration is going to become simple, perhaps as simple as browsing the Internet."
Because virtually anyone can benefit from the standard SOAP seeks to provide, Montgomery said that those companies that can provide the infrastructure to support those that will benefit the most.
Noah Mendelsohn, Lotus' representative to the W3C and a co-author of SOAP 1.1, was quick to dismiss the notion of SOAP as a bandwagon started by Microsoft, heralding the collaboration by all parties involved to reap common benefits.
"This is not at all a bunch of other companies signing on to a Microsoft technology," Mendelsohn said. "Something of this sort is needed, and that's the kind of momentum that we all wanted to leverage."
Mendelsohn also added that he expects to see more e-business-oriented companies coming on board over the upcoming months. The reason, he said, is that the time is right from an application standpoint and a broad technological perspective as well.
"There is a real interest in building [Web-enabled] applications in general," Mendelsohn said. "In terms of the technology itself ... a bunch of companies have gotten together for the first time to create a version that is vendor-neutral."
Now that SOAP 1.1 has been received by the W3C, the consortium will have to vote whether or not to assign a working group to review the protocol and define its scope. Should the W3C find SOAP to be a prudent standard, it could then brand it as such within six months.
Additionally, Mendelsohn said the first test of SOAP 1.1 will come next week at the WWW9 Conference in Amsterdam, when a panel will discuss SOAP in detail.
More information is available at www.www9.org.
Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., is at www.microsoft.com.
The World Wide Web Consortium, in Cambridge, Mass., is at www.w3.org.
Lotus Development Corp., in Cambridge, Mass., is at www.lotus.com.