Web services vendors find common ground

Their debate was billed as a showdown, but representatives of four Web services companies found a surprising amount to agree on.

"In some sense, you're watching a glorified debate about plumbing," said Adam Bosworth, senior vice president and chief architect of advanced development for BEA Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

Bosworth joined officials of IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp. in a panel discussion today at the Comnet conference in Washington.

The four companies agreed on the importance of using Extensible Markup Language and three other core specifications: Simple Object Access Protocol, Web Services Description Language, and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration. Together, they let applications talk to one another.

But the vendors differ in marketing approaches. Bosworth said his company is focused on development tools. Bob Sutor, IBM's director of Web services technology, said his company emphasizes integration services built around open standards. Ted Farrell, Oracle's director of strategy for application development tools, said his company builds Web services into products such as Oracle9i Application Server.

A simple text editor can create the code for a Web service, said Neil Charney, Microsoft's director of .Net platform strategy.

"You really don't need any of us up here to build a Web service," Charney said. Customers, however, want development tools that simplify the job, and they want vendors to implement the core Web services specifications in a consistent way, he added.

Charney acknowledged that Microsoft's aggressive .Net branding strategy may have confused some people who want to use Web services in multiplatform environments.

Many customers who are just starting to learn about Web services are amazed at the level of interoperability between platforms that the industry has already achieved, Bosworth said.

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