IBM, Microsoft unveil new Web standard

IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp. today proposed an XML-based Web standard, the Web Services Inspection (WS-I) specification, which will describe what services a business offers and how users can access those services.

The WS-I specification allows the components of one application to be used by other applications in different locations via the Web and a set of underlying protocols, in this case XML.

Bob Suter, director of e-business standards strategy at IBM, said by using the new standard, businesses will be able to directly find each other’s services over the Internet.

For example, a bank can put its credit card authorization utility on an application server enabling other applications to access it as a Web service, rather than building a credit card validation utility for each application that requires one. So a company that needs to do credit card validation as part of its e-commerce services can search and locate the credit validation service by browsing a bank’s Web site.

The WS-I standard is the fourth in a series of Web services standards created jointly by Microsoft and IBM. Suter said it’s part of the plumbing needed to move businesses closer to achieving the free flow of information.

Suter said although IBM and Microsoft are joining forces to promote the standard, which merges their competing technologies, they will compete to sell to businesses the software they need to build and offer Web services. IBM and Microsoft said they expect to submit the WS-I specification to an appropriate standards body.

Suter said the new standard complements Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI), a Web-based business-to-business directory created by IBM and Microsoft last year, where companies can list contact information and unique identifiers for the Web services they offer.

“UDDI acts as a Yellow Pages directory where businesses can find companies that offer services they need,” Suter said. He said the WS-I specification, however, will allow businesses that already know which companies they want to work with to find out what Web services they offer.

“There are various ways to find a telephone number,” Suter said. “Say I want to know your brother’s telephone number. I could look it up in the White Pages of a telephone book if I knew where he lived. That would be how UDDI works,” he said. “But if I know he is your brother I could call you up and ask you for his telephone number. I want you to tell me how to find him. That’s how WS-I works – it’s a direct query.”