Web services can help set standards, says CTO

Web services and XML have given the software industry a chance to finally realise the "standardisation dream" enjoyed by...

Web services and XML have given the software industry a chance to finally realise the "standardisation dream" enjoyed by industries such as transportation and manufacturing, said Eric Newcomer, chief technology officer at Web Services Integration company, Iona Technologies.

Speaking at the XML Web Services One conference, Newcomer said that the proliferation of XML-based Web services standards and development - particularly around application integration - will enable software "mass assembly" on a wide scale.

"Software right now is still a craft industry, where you have lots of individuals coming up with unique solutions that then need to be handcrafted together," said Newcomer. "Rapid assembly of components will change that."

Web services interfaces and standards will enable the lashing together of commodity application functions such as billing systems or credit check approval processes, freeing companies to focus on the value-added elements of particular applications.

And while more established distributed computing middleware, such as CORBA, features more robust, reliable technology, Web services will, ultimately, prevail as the dominant system-to-system integration mechanism.

"Simplicity and pragmatism always win out," said Newcomer, citing the example of HTTP and HTML which both won out because of ease of use, despite the existence of technically superior transport protocols and development languages.

"XML and the commodity software around Web services gives us a real potential to define the missing standards for integration, get faster time to market and better ROI."

To get there, however, Newcomer believes the standards around quality of service features such as security, workflow and transactions would need to be ironed out - no easy task given increasing fragmentation among vendors and standards bodies. Agreement on this second layer of standards, above the core XML, Soap, UDDI, and WSDL, will be slower to come because vendors have money at stake around these protocols, he predicted.

Newcomer added that the establishment of a standard Web services reference architecture would be essential to adoption. The W3C, of which Newcomer is a member, is working on such an architecture and will release a proposal for public review sometime next month, he said.

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