Web services interoperability is the goal of Web Services Test Forum (WSTF), an open community launched today by vendors including IBM, Oracle, Red Hat, Software AG, Cisco Systems, and Tibco.
The forum, which is also open to corporate users and has Ford Motor Co. as an initial member, will validate interoperability in a multi-vendor testing environment.
"Over the last few years of intensive interoperability work and real-world experience with Web services interoperability, we've gained a lot of feedback and discovered what works well and where there are pain points," said Steven Harris, vice president of the Java Platform Group at Oracle, at a Webcast press conference today.
WSTF seeks to bridge the gap between Web services that technically adhere to standards but may not interoperate in real-world applications. Just because a Web service is based on standards such as SOAP and WSDL, as well as the newer messaging and security standards, that doesn't automatically mean they will play well with others.
WS-ReliableMessaging and WS-Security are two standards where interoperability is important to corporate customers, said Dan Toth, manager of enterprise architecture at Ford. There is a problem with Web services interoperability that businesses such as Ford are seeking to resolve before widespread adoption can take place.
"Our widespread use of Web services is really only just beginning," Toth said. "As we change and update software for internal use of Web services, interoperability has been an issue. With our external suppliers, as we get more external use of Web services, that will become an issue as well."
In promoting standards interoperability, the WSTF open community is set up to respond quickly to these interoperability issues, said Karla Norsworthy, vice president for standards at IBM.
"All it takes is five vendors to agree that they have successfully tested a scenario to make it public and publish best practices against it," she said.
Norsworthy said WSTF will be more agile and lightweight than the official WS* standards bodies, including OASIS and W3C, so it can be more responsive to customers' needs.
"In some cases we can't wait for that [standard body] process to complete before we begin to test customer scenarios," she said. "We view this as highly complementary to the processes and the standards bodies. But the fact that this is a little lighter weight and that we've got an easy way for customers to participate makes this a nice complement."
The WSTF plans to also work with respective standards bodies to help speed the standardization process for emerging Web services standards, the vendors said.
Work is being done at WSTF already to validate interoperability and develop best practices for WS-Addressing, WS-ReliableMessaging, WS-Security and WS-Transactions, Norsworthy said.
"As business demand for multi-enterprise process automation accelerates, the need to test community-based integration built-on standards is critical," wrote IDC analyst Maureen Fleming, in support of the announcement, "The WSTF promises to be an important initiative for enterprises focused on improving the accuracy and lowering the cost of applications that require this type of interoperability."
Additional vendors supporting the effort include Active Endpoints, Axway, eviware, Fujitsu, Hitachi, and Teamlog.
Harris and Norsworthy said the vendors involved have been working informally for the past year on interoperability issues. Their initial work can be found at the new WSTF website.