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Web services confab to spotlight toolkits

Rival software makers are planning to work together on compatibility issues at the Web Services Interoperability Forum this week.

Rival software makers this week are working together on Web services compatibility.

In the two-day Web Services Interoperability Forum, starting Wednesday, about 30 software companies will test the compatibility of their toolkits that programmers use to build Web services. The effort, co-hosted by Microsoft and Iona Technologies, is an existing grassroots effort that has many of the same participants and is working toward the same goals as the newly launched industry consortium, called the Web Services Interoperability Organization.

Web services is a much-hyped method for building software that allows companies with different computing systems to communicate and conduct transactions. In the next few years, analysts expect Web services to gain popularity as a more efficient way of building software and linking dissimilar systems. In the meantime, many software companies are now racing to provide businesses with the tools they need to build Web services.

For the emerging market to take off, however, software makers have to ensure that developers can build compatible Web services. At Iona's headquarters this week, the 30 software companies--including BEA Systems, Oracle, IBM and Borland--will test their compatibility with Web Services Description Language (WSDL), a specification used to define Web services and how to access them.

WSDL is one of several protocols that software companies are supporting as they preach the concept of Web services. The others are Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), which allows Web services to communicate over the Internet; and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI), which lets businesses register, advertise and find Web services on an online directory. Underlying the three protocols is XML (Extensible Markup Language), a standard for exchanging data over the Internet.

In two previous meetings last year, the software companies worked on SOAP compatibility, a Microsoft representative said.