IBM and Microsoft have staged a demonstration to show how the advanced web services specifications they have developed will make it easier for companies with disparate systems to engage in secure and reliable e-business transactions.
At the press event, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and IBM senior vice president Steve Mills, who heads the company's software group, pledged to seek supplier and customer feedback on their advanced specifications for security, reliable messaging and transactions before submitting their work to a standards body.
"That could make the schedule vary somewhat, but the hard part is behind us," Gates said.
IBM and Microsoft have been co-operating on web services specifications for well over a year, in the hope of accelerating the adoption of web services for cross-company applications.
Forrester Research analyst Uttam Narsu said that even though there has been considerable adoption of web services, there has been concern that it is "shallow" and that companies are not using web services for business-critical functions.
Narsu added that he had recently spoken with a large systems integrator which was running 67% below plan because the web services business had not come through as anticipated.
But Gates predicted the advanced specifications in security, reliable messaging and transactions will "lead to an explosion in the use of web services, even in very ambitious things like e-commerce".
IBM and Microsoft demonstrated their advanced web services specifications in a heterogeneous environment consisting of Microsoft and IBM software, including some that ran on Linux. The demonstration involved an automotive dealer, a manufacturer and a supplier involved in a business transaction to get parts from one company to another.
Because of the advanced specifications, they said, the companies would not have to use the same systems or develop the applications at the same time, as they might have had to in the past. Instead, they could use their existing infrastructures.
Gates said the specifications build on basic web services standards already accepted by the industry. He said the security specifications have been submitted to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (Oasis) under royalty-free terms.
No decision has been made about the standards body for the other specifications, although Oasis is a possibility, he said.
"This is a set of standards that we hope to see implemented not just in .net and WebSphere but also in many other vendors' products," Gates said, adding that Microsoft and IBM are "being as inclusive as we can" in seeking feedback.
Not every supplier will be rushing to participate. Ed Julson, group manager of web services marketing at Sun Microsystems, said he was puzzled by yesterday's interoperability demonstration. "This is largely a non-event for the industry," he said. "I don't know what's new here."
Julson added that IBM and Microsoft demonstrated reliable messaging, single sign-on and federated identity capabilities, but there have been standards in the market in those areas for two years.
He cited the ebXML protocol as well as the Liberty Alliance's work in the areas of single sign-on and federated identity.
Carol Sliwa writes for Computerworld