SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Although deployments are occurring, a morass of complexity and a long, head-spinning list of proposed standards continue to hobble Web services technology, according to participants at an SDForum interoperability event on Tuesday.
Citing issues ranging from competing standards to a lack of end-user participation in standards development, speakers gave mostly a poor progress report on the interoperability technology. Speakers were featured at the SDForum's event entitled, "Interoperability Forum -- An Open Industry Dialog."
"My personal observation, living in this world, [is that] it’s still the early days of Web services," said Andy Daecher, a partner in the technology integration services unit at Deloitte.
Displaying a list of about 15 Web services specifications currently vying to become standards, analyst Anne Thomas Manes, vice president and research director at the Burton Group, referred to the confusing situation as "vertigo."
The list featured specifications such as WS-Federation and BPEL (Business process Execution Language).
"I understand what all this stuff is and it still makes my head spin," she said.
While the Web Services Interoperability Organization Basic Profile provides some understanding of how to use these specifications, there are unresolved issues, such as in using XML data mappings, Manes said.
Additionally, attachments pose problems with interoperability, she said. Java supports MIME (Multimedia Internet Mail Extensions) while .Net supports DIME (Direct Internet Message Encapsulation), said Manes. "You can't make them work together," she added.
Migrating from Web Services Framework (WSF) 1.0 to WSF 2.0 will be disruptive, Manes continued. Situations also have emerged with competing standards proposals, such as WS-ReliableMessaging and WS-Reliability, although WS-ReliableMessaging has won that battle, she said.
WS-Notification and WS-Eventing also are competing proposals, she noted. BPEL and WS-CDL (Choreography Description Language) present yet another competitive situation, Manes added.
Typically, vendors, not users, are pushing standards, said Manes. "The vendors are always pursuing their own agenda," and not necessarily customer requirements, Manes said.
While noting the plethora of standard proposals for users to follow, Manes did stress the importance of standards. "Just to conclude, interoperability is your goal. You need to get your systems to work together and standards [are] definitely the solution," she said. "Unfortunately, standardization takes time."
Initiatives are under way to make it simpler to program with Web services, said Edward Cobb, vice president of Architecture and Standards at BEA Systems. "That has been one of the major inhibitors," Cobb said. "You really do need to b a rocket scientist to use a lot of it."
An audience member concurred with Cobb's assessment and added that interoperability between Java and .Net "takes a substantial amount of work."
Cobb said there is a place for tools that make it easier to use Web services. Efforts to this effect are under way at the Eclipse Foundation, he noted. But tooling alone will not suffice.
"The thing we have to be a little careful about is that we need abstractions that don't assume that you can cover up complexity with tooling," Cobb said.