Vendors need to learn to co-operate: analyst

With the morass of industry bickering and competition over industry standards, users might want to consider blackmailing vendors by closing their wallets, an analyst said recently at the InfoWorld Next-Generation Web Services II: The Applications conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

Vendors both compete and co-operate when it suits their needs, according to consultant Amy Wohl, president of Wohl Associates, of Narberth, Pa. Web services have become mired in competing standards efforts and vendors breaking off into separate alliances, she said. But users need standards, Wohl said.

“We need to do whatever we have to do to make the vendors behave like good industry citizens. I suggest the use of blackmail myself,” Wohl said.

Users need to make reasonable demands on vendors and back them up by voting with buying dollars to prod vendors along, Wohl said.

“The real goal of standards is to ensure that we can interoperate.”

Wohl compared vendor bickering over Web services standards to the Unix wars of several years ago, which saw multiple, competing variants of the Unix operating system on the market. That battle, she said, “did not have a good outcome. We ended up in the end being not the mainstream operating system.”

We’re dealing with way too many standards for Web services, Wohl said.

“One of the problems is going to be figuring out how to cluster them into groups,” she added.

Vendors have been proposing duelling standards such as Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS), from IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., and BEA Systems Inc., and Web Services Choreography Interface (WSCI), led by Sun Microsystems Inc. but also with participation from BEA, for handling Web services in business-to-business, transaction-type environments.

Wohl said there are multiple Web standards organizations, such as Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), World Wide Web Consortium, and Liberty Alliance. She added there are good points and bad points about standards. The good is that they provide interoperability and choice within the standard, enable avoidance of vendor lock-in, and can lower costs. But they also can limit choice or provide too many choices and many have to choose with limited information.

She criticized a Microsoft presentation given by Dan’l Lewin, Microsoft corporate vice-president for .Net, in which Lewin called Sun’s Java language proprietary.

“I don’t think it’s any less or any more proprietary than what Microsoft does,” Wohl said.

She expects Sun may soon join the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I), which has been an IBM- and Microsoft-led initiative.