Too many Web services standards bodies?

Representatives from Web services standardization bodies at a conference here Tuesday pondered the notion of whether there are, in fact, too many of these groups and whether it might be a good idea to consolidate efforts in one organization.

Participating were officials from OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), WS-I (Web Services Interoperability Organization), and Liberty Alliance. The officials sat on the panel at a CNET Networks Inc. conference entitled "Building a Web Services Foundation."

"It would be ideal if we had a single organization dealing with Web services standards, but I think it's a practical impossibility," said Tom Glover, president and chairman of WS-I. Different organizations focus on different problems, he stressed.

"What we've got to do is use the strengths of each organization to get the job done together," Glover said. WS-I, he said, lets others do standards development while providing guidance on Web services standardization efforts, he said.

OASIS President and CEO Patrick Gannon echoed his sentiments, arguing that there is not one organization that governs every aspect of development of any single set of standards. "I think what we have here is an opportunity for cooperation among different organizations," he said.

Panelists were first asked their definition of Web services and to state their organization's role in Web services. W3C's representative, Michael Sperberg-McQueen, architecture domain leader with the organization, said, for example, that W3C provides a neutral meeting ground for the Web community to find consensus and prevent the Web from dissolving into mutually non-interoperable sub-Webs. He cited the ability to perform transactions through business-to-business and HTTP and the overall goal of enabling better integration as his definition of Web services.

Liberty Alliance's Michael Barrett, meanwhile, said Web services enable coupling and interoperability of services developed over the Internet. He acknowledged that the Liberty Alliance's network identity mission is less Web services-centric than the other bodies represented on the panel.

One the issue of intellectual property, panelists concurred that their organizations seek to include technologies in standards or specifications on a royalty-free basis, so as to not encumber the specification with obligations of licensing fees or royalties to particular vendors.

"My personal view is I wish Congress would reform [the law]," so that software cannot be patented, Barrett said. "I personally believe it's not helpful to the industry" to patent software, he said.

In another session pertaining to WS-I at the conference, Edward Cobb, a member of the WS-I board of directors and vice president of architecture and standards at BEA Systems Inc., said security would be a focus of WS-I efforts going forward, as the group looks to provide guidance to standards bodies.

"Basically, what we'll be doing is tracking the various Web services specifications as they make their ways through the various standards bodies and identify cross-specification issues," Cobb said.

"Everybody agrees that security is probably the Achilles heel of Web services," he said.

" Security will be the next major focus of WS-I," he added. WS-I will concentrate on XML DSig (Digital Signature), XML Encryption, and SAML ( Security Assertion Markup Language).

Other areas of concern to be pursued by WS-I include workflow and reliable messaging.

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More about BEABEA SystemsCNET NetworksCNET NetworksLiberty AllianceOrganization for the Advancement of Structured Information StandardsW3CWorld Wide Web Consortium

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