HolidayBuyer's Guide

Inside the standards sausage factory

Earlier this week IBM, Microsoft, BEA Systems and Tibco Software submitted a specification called WS-ReliableMessaging to the standards body OASIS as a proposed standard.

This is no surprise to people who have been tracking Web services specifications. But the move highlights some fundamentally different philosophies in how standards are created.

Here's why: OASIS already has a Web services standard—not a proposal—for reliable messaging. So why do we need this other one?

Depending on whom you ask, you'll get widely different answers.

Here's a rough summary of one camp: about four years ago some very smart engineers from IBM and Microsoft laid out a roadmap for how distributed computing would be done using XML-based protocols called Web services. The reliable messaging spec, one of many, was sketched out years ago; it's only now mature enough to submit to a standards body.

IBM and Microsoft have gotten other experts, such as Verisign and Tibco, on these specs. But the "top-down" approach was deliberate. No more endless squabbling in slow-moving standards bodies (think Object Management Group).

Meanwhile, the folks who did the WS-Reliability spec (the one that's already a standard) took a completely different route. Unhappy playing second fiddle to IBM and Microsoft, representatives from Oracle, Sun, Hitachi and Fujitsu submitted a proposal and, through the "open process," built a standard.

It should be noted that IBM and Tibco and Microsoft combined have a substantial amount of market share in reliable messaging software.

Now, we're just waiting to see what OASIS will do and whether these dueling groups can cooperate. In this case, let's hope the end product is prettier than the process it took to make it.