New Group to Tackle Web Services Interoperability


They say the path to hell is paved with good intentions. If I were a member of a standards group, I'd put that at the head of our stationery.


This week, a group of vendors announced the formation of the Web Services Test Forum, or WSTF. The WSTF, in its own words, is a community to "develop interop scenarios as well as test those scenarios against other Web Service implementations." It will also allow members to run regression tests while developing Web service implementations.


Ron Schmelzer of ZapThink-always one to hold back-pointed out that, really, this new group would have been redundant, if the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) hadn't gone AWOL:

"...the WS-I hasn't been doing much in the past few years. In fact, it's pretty notable how absent the WS-I has been from SOA efforts in the past few years. The fact that we would need a new organization to focus on interoperability scenarios says much about the inability of the industry to come to any long-term agreement on these things."

He didn't seem to have high hopes that the new group would solve much, however, pointing out that the WSTF includes many of the same vendors involved in the WS-I:

"...the fact that it is always the same group of vendors rearranging the deck chairs on the interoperability question really makes one wonder whether the vendors will ever be able to champion the task of interoperability on their own."

The founding members of WSTF include Active Endpoints, CISCO, Fujitsu, Hitachi, IBM, Oracle, Red Hat, Software AG, TIBCO and, oddly, Ford Motor Company. (Everybody sing: "One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn't belong, Can you tell which thing is not like the others, By the time I finish my song?") A complete list is included in the press release.



Of course, the WSTF isn't a standards group per se. As eWEEK notes, the WSTF intends to work with existing standards groups. But some of those standards-notably WS-Security-have been plagued by interoperability problems.


This is where the WSTF comes in. According to TechTarget, "WSTF seeks to bridge the gap between Web services that technically adhere to standards but may not interoperate in real-world applications."


I guess I'm nave, because I really did think the whole point of standards groups is interoperability.


Karla Norsworthy, vice president of software standards at IBM, told TechTarget that the WSTF can be more responsive to customers' problems than the official standards bodies:

"In some cases we can't wait for that [standard body] process to complete before we begin to test customer scenarios. We view this as highly complementary to the processes and the standards bodies."

But when talking to eWEEK, Norsworthy focused more on the day-to-day reasons for the WSTF:

"This saves us from needing to bring up copies of products from other vendors in our labs. It also provides a lightweight way to test new scenarios of interest to customers-and a forum to bring the community together to have those conversations."

The WSTF is open to all software vendors, service providers and their customers. It will provide an open forum to test or validate applications and services. The vendors have also promised to work closely with their customers to develop test scenarios.