Start-up targets open-source Web services

WSO2, based in Sri Lanka, will look to commercialize and support the Apache Axis Web services tool set.

Some of the technical minds behind Web services protocols have launched an open-source services company, pulling in fellow open-source company Covalent Technologies as an investor.

WSO2 officially launched on Monday with offices in Sri Lanka and Boston. It announced partnerships with Covalent and start-up SourceLabs.

The newly formed company, funded by Covalent and angel investors, intends to offer support services to corporate customers that use the Apache Axis tools, which are available for free under the Apache Foundation's open-source license.

Axis is often used in combination with the open-source Tomcat application server to build and run applications that conform to Web services protocols. In the commercial world, this Web services tooling is included in Java application servers from vendors such as IBM, BEA Systems and Oracle.

"We want to create something completely new with a clean architecture and clean design, acting without a vendor agenda to protect products we already have. We've started with a clean slate," said Sanjiva Weerawarana, the company's founder and CEO.

WSO2 employs a number of the software engineers who contribute to Apache Axis.

Weerawarana formerly worked at IBM, where he co-authored Web services specifications, including Web Services Description Language (WSDL). Davanum Srinivas, who is vice president of engineering at WSO2, currently heads up the Apache Axis project.

Covalent, which offers management tools and services around the Apache Web server and Tomcat application server, intends to offer services around the Apache Axis software.

By investing in WSO2, Covalent gets a seat on the company's board and its support team will gain better technical expertise on Axis, said Covalent CEO Mark Brewer.

"The market is just dying for somebody to support open-source solutions (like Axis). There is pent-up demand," Brewer said

SourceLabs will offer support services for Apache Axis in combination with other Java open-source development tools.

The Apache Axis2 update, which is designed to simplify the process of deploying a Web services application, is slated for completion later this month or in September, said Weerawarana.

The update will support a popular method of building Web services applications called REST, or Representational State Transfer, which integrates different systems by sending XML documents between programs.

"If you want to build Java Web services, you can use Apache Axis running on Tomcat, which is a really popular environment," said Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst at the Burton Group. "When building Web services, I think J2EE (Java application servers) are way more than what you need."

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