Can Sun, Microsoft Truce Speed Up Web Services?

The truce (if not all out love fest) between Sun and Microsoft continues, as they seem to have put aside many of their differences over how multi-point web services should be built, deployed and managed. See how the Sun and Microsoft/IBM camps on transport-neutral web services (WS-Addressing) might push forward a lot of stalled web services timetables

Tags: WS-Addressing, Web Services, Microsoft, Sun, Proposals, Endpoint, Supporters,

The truce (if not all out love fest) between Sun and Microsoft continues, as those firms appear to have put aside many of their differences over how multi-point web services should be built, deployed and managed.

As a result, what used to be two camps -- the WS-Addressing camp led by Microsoft/IBM and the WS-MessageDelivery camp, led by Sun and Oracle Corp. -- are now one community, as the two groups have jointly submitted a proposed standard that converges on WS-Addressing to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Other vendors supporting the convergence include: SAP, Iona Technologies BEA Systems and Nokia Corp.

[The Sun coalition's WS-MessageDelivery group had already submitted that proposal to the W3C. Earlier this year, the Microsoft/IBM WS-Addressing group had pledged to submit their work to the W3C by September.]

Inside the Truce over WS-Addressing
"This joint work on WS-Addressing is a natural progression in our partnership with Sun, and we anticipate further collaboration of our Web services efforts moving forward," Dave Mendlen, director of Web services technical strategy at Microsoft told eWeek. "We look forward to greater cooperation in other areas of the relationship as well."

As for Sun's view, Ed Julson, Sun's chief of web services marketing told CNET's "In looking at this a little closer, it became clear to us there's a little more maturity in the WP-Addressing,..It just seemed like the logical thing to do as we try to get convergence in the industry."

The full text of the proposal is available from Microsoft's MSDN website.

Inside WS-Addressing: What's At Stake for SOA, SOAP
In specific, the proposed WS-Addressing provides several key foundations for a full SOA (Services Oriented Architecture) implementation. Among them:
  • A set of "transport-neutral mechanisms to address web services and messages.
  • Identifies "web service endpoints" and looks to "secure end-to-end endpoint identification in messages." To do so, the proposed WS-Addressing spec leverages W3C's existing work on XML elements (such as XML 1.1 and XML Namespaces]
  • The endpoint references defined in the proposed specification serve to "identify the message destination; the message information headers allow the specification of endpoint references within messages, along with a way to relate messages to each other."
  • All told, from a web services message flow point of view, WS-Addressing would "enable messaging systems to support message transmission through networks that include processing nodes such as endpoint managers, firewalls, and gateways in a transport-neutral manner."

    While WS-Addressing is at its base might seem like just another web services protocol (who really cares?), supporters say WS-Addressing will have a much broader impact. A WS-Addressing Technical White paper prepared by IBM, for instance, outlines how it sees WS-Addressing as "establishes message information headers that will make new Web services message flow patterns possible." The technical paper goes on to say that WS-Addressing will have a "profound impact on SOAP engines and the future of the SOAP protocol itself."

    The Chance for a Last-Minute Glitch?
    But for all the vendor unity, WS-Addressing is far from a done deal.

    Dave Chappell, technology evangelist at Sonic Software, writes of his cautious optimism at
    O'Reilly's Onlamp, "This [WS-Addressing submission] is only the first step in the development/ratification of the spec within the W3C process. The submission in its current state is referred to as a 'member submission.' This means that WS-Addressing has now become more 'standard-y' than it was before, but not much more. Nevertheless I am feeling positively optimistic about this."

    Indeed, the W3C submission asks that a Working Group be created to start the review and deliberation process.

    There also remains some technical details to be hashed out between the former Microsoft and Sun stand-alone proposals.
    In fact, Sun's Julson said that just because Sun (and other WS-MessageDelivery supporters) are joint submitters on the Microsoft/IBM WS-Addresssing way of seeing web services message flow, that doesn't mean that the two camps are in 100% agreement -- on 100% of technology details.

    "There's going to be a lot of work to drive convergence of the two major spec sets [and] to take these two pieces of work and ensure a specification for interoperability,"Sun's Julson told eWeek.