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Commentary: Harmonizing Web services

The new consortium formed by Microsoft, IBM, BEA Systems and Intel has a promising future, but it's got a few hurdles to get over before it can grab the brass ring.

By David Smith and Yefim Natis, Gartner Analysts

The Web Services Interoperability Organization, a consortium formed by several major information-technology vendors, seeks to address an essential issue surrounding Web services: the promotion of a set of standards enabling Web services to interoperate.

However, the new consortium faces a number of significant hurdles, including dealing with various standards bodies as well as managing the threat of eventual vendor or user apathy. Without adequately addressing these and other political challenges, the group could fade into obscurity by the end of 2003.

On the other hand, even with its limitations (a limited budget and as of yet no participation by Sun Microsystems), Gartner believes that the group can help boost Web services for the following reasons:

See news story:
Giants forging Web services consortium
• The group will bridge the gap between Microsoft and the "Java community" through the participation of BEA Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Oracle. The organization will act as a "standard integrator," therefore bringing some coherence to the effort carried out concurrently by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), OAG (Open Applications Group) and other informal groups.

In addition to overcoming political differences, the promotion of uniform standards involving security and transactions will remain a challenge.

• Powerful vendors such as BEA, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP will work to establish what Web services will and will not be. Gartner believes this will show some political unity and establish Web services as a serious effort (at least among vendor participants).

• The group will help educate the market in Web services and help implement best practices. That will help in the understanding and adoption of Web services, because many people don't yet know what Web services are or how to use them.

• If the group succeeds and collects enough support and membership, it could emerge as the de facto standards body for Web services.

Gartner believes that the group can build confidence within enterprises that want a more stable and consistent viewpoint of Web services, and can advance the credibility of Web services as a strategic business choice.

However, Gartner believes that won't happen unless Microsoft joins the Sun-led Liberty Alliance Project (whose goal is to foster open interoperability between identity systems on the Internet) and Sun joins the Web Services Interoperability Organization by the end of 2002. Without that chain of events, the Web services group will find it hard to be effective in the long run.

Still, even if the group fades in importance as a standards integrator, it stands to help speed Web services adoption for the industry overall.

(For related commentary on IBM's activities in Web services, see Gartner.com.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2002 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.