Microsoft breaks with standards effort

From: John Flynn (
Date: 03/25/03

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    I was at a briefing by Microsoft last Thursday at which they said they are
    committed to the Web Standards Interoperability (WS-I) organization for web
    standards and to the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) for web
    services description.
    Microsoft breaks with standards effort
    By Martin LaMonica
    Staff Writer, CNET
    March 25, 2003, 4:00 AM PT
    Read more about Web services standards
    In a sign of growing discord over Web services guidelines, Microsoft has
    pulled out of a key Web services standards working group.
    Over the past month, IBM and Microsoft have been at odds with other
    companies around standards submissions, including a high-profile effort
    within the Web's leading standards organization, the World Wide Web
    Consortium (W3C). Now Microsoft has upped the rancor by dropping out of a
    W3C working group focused on establishing rules for how businesses will send
    and receive data to one another via Web services.
    The company withdrew from the W3C's so-called choreography group because it
    determined that the scope of the group did not align well with the work of
    two Microsoft researchers who attended the initial meeting, said Steven
    VanRoekel, director of Web services marketing for Microsoft.
    VanRoekel described the Microsoft research on "contract language," which
    deals with ways two pieces of software communicate, as only partially
    related to the notion of automated business processes through Web services.
    He added that the W3C "is not the only vehicle in which to impact and
    evaluate a set of technologies."
    The move is the latest in a series of maneuvers between companies and
    standards bodies that highlights a growing friction around industry
    guidelines <> . Critics
    contend that Microsoft and IBM, which also is not participating in the W3C
    group, are causing confusion through attempts to exert their influence over
    an increasingly contentious process to define agreed-upon methods for
    exchanging information using Web services standards.
    Web services is an umbrella term to describe methods for building
    applications that can easily share information across disparate computing
    systems <> . Through
    standards organizations such as the W3C, information technology providers
    and their customers create blueprints that define how companies will build
    future products.
    In this case, the choreography working group
    <>  at the W3C met earlier
    this month to sort out proposals for describing how businesses will
    communicate with each other during a multistep process.
    The standards land rush
    After initially indicating it would not attend, Microsoft at the last moment
    sent two researchers to the two-day meeting, held March 13 and 14, and
    described its view on what a choreography language should do, according to
    attendees. Microsoft, IBM and BEA have written their own specification for a
    Web services choreography, also called orchestration, but have not yet
    submitted it to a standards body for consideration.
    However, only a few days after the initial meeting, Microsoft notified the
    committee's co-chairman that the company planned to withdraw.
    Steve Ross-Talbot, the W3C's choreography cochair, who is also chief
    scientist at software company Enigmatec <> ,
    said he was "mystified and stunned" at the move. He urged Microsoft and IBM
    to provide input on choreography to complement the WC3's work.
    The working group's charter is to define a programming language for
    Reader Resources
    Web services
    Tech Republic
    describing how a Web services application will behave in an external
    business process. For example, a manufacturer could write an application
    describing how the various elements of a purchase order should interact with
    its partners' systems and with certain types of employees.
    The group intends to have a specification prepared within a year and
    software tests to check compliance within two years.
    Participation in standards bodies has become increasingly important to IT
    providers as the software industry coalesces around Web services, according
    to analysts. With representation on different technical committees,
    companies can influence the development of new standards and have a head
    start on products.
    "By being involved in the standards process, companies can craft the process
    for how people will adopt technology," said Ron Schmelzer, an analyst at
    ZapThink. "It's not just control, but they also have their finger on the
    pulse of development. A lot of this feels like a land-rush mentality."
    Consensus over initial Web services standards during the past several years
    took root quickly, with companies agreeing on basic mechanisms for
    describing what a software component does and how it communicates over the
    Internet. Over the past two years, IT companies have proposed a number of
    enhancements, such as security and reliability, to the basic Web services
    But as companies seek to exert influence over future Web services
    capabilities, infighting over standards has publicly surfaced.
    For example, Microsoft and IBM earlier this month published a proposal to
    add reliability to Web services messaging and said they would submit the
    specification to a standards body. Only a month earlier, a group of
    companies that included Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Fujitsu and Hitachi had
    submitted an initial reliable messaging specification
    <>  that covered essentially
    the same ground to the standards body Oasis.
    The threat of fragmentation
    Sun issued a statement condemning the move, saying that "IBM and (Microsoft)
    have now moved away from a leadership position in Web services standards and
    become a disruptive force in the industry."
    On the subject of choreography standards, Microsoft and IBM said earlier
    this month that they intend to repeat their actions regarding security and
    reliability: Later this year, they will publish details of their proposal
    and submit it for consideration as a standard.
    If the two market giants spearhead a choreography group that runs parallel
    to the W3C working group, there is concern that rival standards submissions
    will derail or fracture the progress of software interoperability through
    Web services standards.
    "I worry that that fragmentation in the Web services space will lead to
    slower adoption and less clarity in the standards. That's a
    Special Report
    Work in progress <>
    Web services finds new life
    as a corporate bridge.
    serious worry," said Daniel Austin, a senior technical architect at and member of the choreography group. Without agreed-upon
    guidelines, business-to-business e-commerce company Grainger will have to
    invest more resources in making software from different companies integrate
    "I think people figure that there's a lot (at) stake, and the vendors are
    willing to play a nastier game when they smell money," Austin said.
    Austin added that different standards bodies, such as the W3C and Oasis, may
    end up considering essentially the same technology. ZapThink's Schmelzer
    said a situation may emerge where multiple standards coexist and are
    unlikely to change, like electricity or plumbing standards in different
    "By the third quarter of the year, we're going to see a lot of this become
    much more clear," said David Chappell, chief technology evangelist at Sonic
    Software, which participates in both the Oasis reliable messaging process
    and the W3C's choreography working group.
    Microsoft and IBM will have "brought their specifications to some standards
    organization, and there won't be this posturing over whose 'spec' is better
    anymore," Chappell said.
    Microsoft's VanRoekel brushed off concerns that the dispute will fracture
    the industry. He said the work of various standards bodies, including the
    Web Services Interoperability Organization
    <>  (WS-I), and customers
    will eventually converge.
    "The industry will act as a funnel that will take all of this activity and
    funnel it to a set of specifications that will all align to build
    interoperable Web services," VanRoekel said. "Lots of dialogue is good for
    John Flynn
    (703) 284-4612
    DAML Integration and Transition PM
    BBN Technologies

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