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IBM, Microsoft Show Beefed-Up Web Services

Security, messaging, and transactions are the subject of a year-long joint development effort.

IBM and Microsoft Wednesday demonstrated three jointly developed Web-services capabilities, a year in the making, that company officials say will let businesses build and deploy easy-to-integrate applications with unprecedented speed. The new approaches are meant to add security, "reliable" messaging, and the ability to execute transactions to the Web services building blocks that are already available.

The demo seemed simple enough. In one mock scenario, an employee of an automobile dealership using a Web browser and single password accessed an auto manufacturer's inventory system to order windshield-wiper blades. In another, a worker used a mobile device and wireless connection to place an order, which succeeded despite the intentional failure of one server in the process. The transactions occurred across systems using IBM's DB2 database, WebSphere middleware, and Linux operating system on one side and Microsoft's SQL Server database and Windows Server 2003 on the other.

Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates described the new capabilities as being the "next level" in Web services, making it possible to build more secure, dependable applications than possible with the Simple Object Access Protocol, UDDI, WSDL, and XML specifications alone. Steve Mills, the senior VP and group executive in charge of IBM's software business, described the application integration allowed by the new software as a "breakthrough" in business technology.

The emphasis was to show that Web services promise to be a more efficient alternative to current application-integration techniques. Gates says cost savings derived from no-hassle integration can be applied to business innovation or lowering the costs of IT operations.

The demo was a necessary step in proving the concept of enterprise-class Web services, says Meta Group analyst David Cearley. More important, he says, will be to push the specs through the standards process and to show the same capabilities at work in business environments with PBXML, an iteration of XML that helps define business processes.

IBM and Microsoft plan to hold industry workshops over the next few months to get input on the security, messaging, and transaction specs, as a step toward submitting them for adoption as industry standards. Gates expects the specs to appear in products in about nine months, and says, "We have a very aggressive roadmap to get this out."

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