With their impatience with standards bodies showing, IBM, Oracle, Ford Motor, Red Hat, Tibco Software, and other companies have banded together to form the Web Services Test Forum.
It will seek to establish interoperability among products built to existing standards. It also will seek to establish interoperability between products built to emerging standards, before those standards have been finalized.
"We've gained a lot of experience with Web services interoperability, where things work well and where the pain points are," said Steven Harris, senior VP of Java platform at Oracle, in a teleconference Monday. The forum will provide a test bed for products built to the IETF, Oasis, World Wide Web Consortium, and other standards.
The forum will generate scenarios for testing the use of certain products between different end points. "It will play a key role in accelerating interoperability for Web services standards by not waiting for Web services standards to be approved before initiating testing based on customer scenarios," said Dan Toth, manager of enterprise architecture at Ford, in a statement about the launch of the forum.
In response to InformationWeek's questions during the teleconference, Toth said Ford has already experienced some difficulties in implementing Web services with business partners and suppliers. As upgrades occur to operating systems and other parts of the infrastructure at Ford, the changes break an existing Web service that ties Ford to a business partner.
While such instances were rare, Toth said, "our widespread use of Web services is only just beginning. As we get more Web services with partners, we will need more interoperability" that can last through the lifecycle of an application or piece of enterprise middleware, including its bug fixes and upgrades, he said.
Asked if the formation of the forum was a challenge to slow-moving standards bodies, Oracle's Harris said standard setting was "a bit of a push/pull process with standard-setting organizations." Many Web standards have only recently been minted and are "still immature." The forum will be trying to establish best practices in implementing standards, which is sometimes a gray area in standards formation, he said.
Even when a standard specification is set, vendors such as Software AG, Cisco, Fujitsu, Hitachi, and other members of the forum can contribute to understanding of it through their experience in implementation, said Karla Norsworthy, IBM's VP of software standards.
Toth said Ford plans to use the WS-Addressing standard from the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), which defines the XML, to be used to set message end points, in future Web services. It also plans to use WS-Security from Oasis, which defines ways to make a Web service secure.
The forum has established a testing scenario for WS-Addressing on its www.WSTF.org Web site. The scenario can be found at this URL.
Another scenario deals with establishing a purchase order Web service, using WS-Addressing and SOAP 1.1, WSDL 1.1, and WS-Policy. More will follow, said Norsworthy.
The forum will provide "an open test environment and real world test scenarios... It better arms everyone to deal with software and standards throughout the software lifecycle," said Harris. Norsworthy said the forum hopes nontechnology vendor members, such as Ford, continue to join the group.
The Automotive Industry Association is also a member of the forum, along with Active Endpoints, Axway, Eviware, and Teamlog.