If you think the alphabet soup of web services acronyms is bad - with SOAP, WSDL, UDDI, WS-Security and WS-Routing to name but a few - then hold on to your spoon,writes Gavin Clarke.
Things are going to get much, much worse.
IBM's director of e-business standards Bob Sutor predicts between 20 and 25 XML-based specifications for web services will eventually be defined by standards bodies like OASIS and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The good part? ISVs and customers are unlikely to implement all 25. Instead developers will mix and match, picking specifications to suit specific needs. WSDL will be the most widely adopted specification, to describe web services.
On this latter specification, Sutor is emphatic: web services are defined by whether they are described in WSDL.
"Web services will be fundamentally WSDL based. You have to use WSDL to describe [a web service] and then you can build up from there," Sutor said. "There will be a tremendous amount of use for SOAP... but there may be a more optimized protocol."
Sutor believes the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) Organization will help clear-up confusion over the remaining specifications. Sutor said WS-I will help to ensure interoperability between vendor's implementations of standards. WS-I will also corral groups of standards to suit specific functions, such as security.
"Once standards get implemented you get a different perspective of what you should have and what should have been settled, as people mix and match parts of a paper specification. That's where WS-I can contribute. The raw list of standards is just ammunition," he said.
WS-I though has gained notoriety in recent days as the body Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft joined on condition its rival Palo Alto, California-based Sun was edged out of the founding line up. Since WS-I's creation in February, allegations have risen that WS-I is attempting to position itself as a standards body.
Sutor denied WS-I's mandate was to become a standards body, saying it would work with standards already established by organizations like Oasis and W3C. He added: "If WS-I says [something] is 80% SOAP who is to say the world should use it or that it is a new specification. WS-I is not going to write a brand new specification."
IBM's web services guru is optimistic about the rate at which web services will be adopted. He predicts basic web services will appear in 2003, as more products appear that support latest specifications.
"This year you will see people build on last year's specifications like SOAP and by the end of 2002 people will use WS-Security. Next year transactions and workflow will be added to security. In 2003 people will start to use specifications. It's hard today to find a customer who isn't using this technology," he said.