Tech Giants Back Specification for Web Services

Bidding to advance an emerging technology by putting widely supported standards into place, a coalition led by Microsoft, Intel and Sun Microsystems released specifications for using Web services to remotely manage far-flung data networks, handheld devices, PCs and servers.

Known as WS-Management, the specification — developed by Sun, Microsoft, Dell, Intel and AMD — was released to the public in order to collect further input, which will be used to further refine the standards, the companies said. They will then be submitted to a Web services standards ratifying body, the Distributed Management Task Force, for its consideration.

The spec builds on the WS-architecture that a vast group of engineers have been working on for more than two years to develop specific standards.

Others that have been developed include WS-Federation, which spells out ways to simplify complex transactions, and WS-Security, which tries to lay the groundwork for Web services security, something that has been seen as a major hurdle to more widespread adoption of the technology.

Remote Devices

The companies say that the IT managers will be able to use applications written for the specifications to manage remote devices, even those that have yet to be configured, or are offline for whatever reason. Analysts say the tool will be welcomed by the growing number of smaller enterprises that are using off-site data centers to host and store their data.

“Web services are the preferred architecture for building the next generation of application protocols,” said David Mendlen, director of Web services at Microsoft. “This is an important step for IT managers who have been looking for management systems to fully take advantage of the inherent interoperability that Web services provide.”

Computer Associates also endorsed the scheme, saying that the Web services model is “a natural fit for the management of the on-demand enterprise.”

Steady Progress

The specification was previewed to developers earlier this year, but the companies did not give a time frame for widespread availability of applications and tools that work with it.

In general, there has been slow but steady progress on the Web services front. Though IBM did not yet endorse the WS-Management specs, it has signed on to some other standards, and analysts say companies are no longer daunted by some of the problems associated with Web services, including security and interoperability issues.

Gartner analyst David Smith said the emerging Web services revolution has already been “a catalyst for software innovation,” a trend that will continue to pick up steam as more standards emerge.

Smith said IBM’s absence from the standards is significant because the company has taken a leadership position, along with Microsoft, in creating Web-services-enabled software.

“Web services are being adopted and utilized in many settings but aren’t always called by that name or even recognized for what they are,” Smith added.

Growth Ahead

ZapThink analyst Jason Bloomberg said Web services are nearing the point at which growth of adoption will start to accelerate rapidly.

“In the beginning, the growth of any network is small, because only visionary parts of the organization are willing to utilize such new technology,” he said recently. “But at some point, the growth of the network reaches a tipping point where the deployment and use of the technology explodes.

“When that point passes for Web services,” he added, “the world of distributed computing will never be the same.”

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