IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp. staged a demonstration last week to show how the advanced Web services specifications that they have developed will make it easier for companies with disparate systems to securely and reliably engage in electronic business transactions.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and IBM Senior Vice President Steve Mills, who heads the company's software group, pledged to seek vendor and customer feedback on their advanced specifications for security, reliable messaging and transactions before submitting their work to a standards body.
"We'll see what the feedback is like. That could make the schedule vary somewhat, but the hard part is behind us," Gates said.
The companies have been cooperating on Web services specifications for well over a year in the hope that their work will help accelerate the adoption of Web services for cross-company applications.
IBM and Microsoft last week gave the first demonstration of their advanced Web services specifications in a heterogeneous environment consisting of Microsoft and IBM software, including some systems that ran on Linux. The demonstration involved an automotive dealer, a manufacturer and a supplier involved in a business transaction to get parts from one company to another.
Because of the advanced Web services specifications, the companies wouldn't have to use the same software systems or develop their applications at the same time, as they might have had to do in the past, officials claimed. Instead, they would be able to use their existing infrastructures.
Gates said the advanced specifications, which IBM and Microsoft had outlined on prior occasions, build on basic Web services standards that have already been accepted by the industry. He said the security specifications have already been submitted to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) under royalty-free terms.
No decision has been made about the standards body for the other specifications, although OASIS is a possibility, said Gates.
"This is a set of standards that we hope to see implemented not just in (Microsoft's) .Net and (IBM's) WebSphere but also in many other vendors' products," Gates said. He added that Microsoft and IBM are "being as inclusive" as they can in seeking input.
But not every vendor is expected to rush to participate. Ed Julson, group manager of Web services marketing at Sun Microsystems Inc., said he was puzzled by this week's IBM-Microsoft interoperability demonstration.
"This is largely a nonevent for the industry," he said. "I don't know what's new here." Julson said IBM and Microsoft demonstrated reliable messaging, single sign-on and federated identity, but there have been standards in those areas for two years. He cited the ebXML suite of specifications for reliable messaging as well as the Liberty Alliance's work in the areas of single sign-on and federated identity.