WS-I releases Web services interoperability plan

Looking to find the Holy Grail of low-cost, easy interoperability for data and applications, the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) on Tuesday is set to release its Basic Profile 1.0 document.

Basic Profile 1.0, approved unanimously July 22 by the 11-member WS-I board of directors and by approximately 150 member organizations-at-large earlier this month, includes implementation guidelines on using core Web services specifications together to develop interoperable Web services. Those specifications include SOAP 1.1, WSDL 1.1, UDDI 2.0, XML 1.0, and XML Schema.

The availability of Basic Profile 1.0 sets the stage for unified Web services support in technologies such as the next major version of the enterprise Java specification, J2EE 1.4, and the upcoming upgrade of IBM Corp.'s WebSphere Studio development environment. Version 1.0 of the profile is intended to provide a common framework for implementing interoperable solutions while giving buyers a common reference point for purchasing decisions, according to WS-I.

"What the importance of this is, is that without these guidelines, there are enough ambiguities in the way you can implement these standards that Web services built by different companies (or on different platforms) will not be interoperable with each other," said Andy Astor, a member of the WS-I board of directors and chairman of marketing and communications at webMethods, in Middletown, N.J.

The profile features a set of guidelines resolving more than 200 interoperability issues, Astor said. Following release of the profile, WS-I this fall plans to release testing tools to verify conformance with the profile and sample applications to demonstrate use. Test tools will be available in both C# and Java implementations. WS-I with the release of the tools also will announce how Web services software vendors and service providers can claim conformance of their products to Basic Profile 1.0

Future Web services profiles are expected to add such functionality as security, via the Basic Security Profile, and Web services attachments capabilities through use of SOAP with Attachments technology, said Mark Hapner, WS-I board member from Sun Microsystems Inc. and Web services strategist for Java at Sun, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Sun has been awaiting the release of the Basic Profile so it could include it in J2EE 1.4. Sun now plans to release J2EE 1.4, which is to feature Web services enablement, in the fourth quarter of this year, Hapner said.

IBM, meanwhile, plans to add support for the profile in Version 5.1.1 of the WebSphere Studio development environment when it is released later this month, said IBM spokesman Scott Cook, in Cambridge, Mass.

WebMethods Inc. plans to add support for Basic Profile 1.0 to its integration platform, Astor said.

Some vendors already have supported the profile, based on details already released about it. A working draft was released by WS-I in October.

Microsoft Corp. said it supports Basic Profile 1.0 in technologies such as its Visual Studio .Net development environment and .Net Framework. "Microsoft applauds the ratification of the Basic Profile 1.0 and sees it as a significant milestone, taking the industry a step closer to ensuring Web services are able to interoperate across heterogeneous systems," said Microsoft's Steven VanRoekel, director of Web services, in a prepared statement.

Web services management software vendor Actional Corp. also said it supports the profile already. "The response (to the Basic Profile) from a customer perspective has been very positive," said James Phillips, Actional senior vice president, in Mountain View, Calif. "We've had customers specifically ask us if we support Basic Profile 1.0 or plan to if it's made public."

MindReef Inc. on Tuesday is announcing that its new SOAPscope 2.0 Web services diagnostics system includes WSDL interoperability checking based on Basic Profile 1.0.

An analyst stressed that the profile represents the first deliverable from WS-I. "Up until now, [the profile has] has been theory and works in progress, but now they have the profile available," said Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink, in Waltham, Mass. Bloomberg said the profile at this point primarily is for vendors to make their offerings interoperable. WS-I needs to add more user organizations to its fold, he said.

Affirmation of the profile unites bitter rivals IBM, Microsoft, and Sun, all of whom hold board seats, although Sun had to be elected to a seat in March while IBM and Microsoft were charter board members dating back to WS-I's formation in February 2002.

WS-I is not a standards body like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) or Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards. It merely takes standards from organizations such as these and develops interoperability and usage profiles.

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