Are there too many Web services standards bodies?

Representatives of Web services standardisation bodies this week debated whether their efforts might be better represented by a...

Representatives of Web services standardisation bodies this week debated whether their efforts might be better represented by a single organisation.

The Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (Oasis), the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Web Services Interoperability Organisation (WS-I) and the Liberty Alliance were all represented at the "Building a Web Services Foundation" conference in San Francisco.

"It would be ideal if we had a single organisation dealing with Web services standards, but I think it's a practical impossibility," said Tom Glover, president and chairman of WS-I. "What we've got to do is use the strengths of each organisation to get the job done together."

WS-I lets others do standards development while providing guidance on Web services standardisation efforts, Glover said.

Oasis president and chief executive officer Patrick Gannon agreed that no organisation governed every aspect of development of any single set of standards. "I think what we have here is an opportunity for co-operation among different organisations," he said.

Panellists were first asked their definition of Web services and to state their organisation's role in Web services.

Michael Sperberg-McQueen, architecture domain leader with W3C, said W3C provided 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 said Web services enabled coupling and interoperability of services developed over the Internet. He acknowledged that the Liberty Alliance's network identity mission was not as Web services-centric than the other bodies represented on the panel.

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

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

Edward Cobb, a member of the WS-I board of directors and vice-president of architecture and standards at BEA Systems, said security would be a focus of WS-I efforts, as the group sought to provide guidance to standards bodies.

"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."

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

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

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