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Mills and Gates demonstrate Reliable Web Services

Bill Gates and Steve Mills took a platform together, presumable in response to the OASIS demonstration of reliable messaging. Peter Abrahams of comments.

Market Analysis

Mills and Gates demonstrate Reliable Web Services
As if in response to my article but presumable in response to the Oasis demonstration of reliable messaging Bill Gates and Steve Mills were on a platform together.

For those of you who do not immediately recognize Steve's name, he is the Chief of IBM Software Division, and could be considered to be as influential in the overall software market as Bill.

The platform was in the St Regis Hotel, New York on Thursday 18 September and they were giving an update on their joint work on advancing Web services.

IBM and Microsoft conducted a demo that showed a large auto manufacturer creating a next-generation supply chain solution for managing relationships with dealers and suppliers. The demo was running across a federated heterogeneous environment (including IBM, Microsoft and a Sharp PDA). The demo highlighted the companies' joint work in security, federations, trust, secure conversion, policy, transactions & coordination specifications and reliable messaging.

What makes this demonstration stand out from the Oasis Reliable Messaging demonstration, the week before, are all the functions mentioned before reliable messaging. These are the functions that are required for consistent and reliable Web services. In simple terms I see this as the extension of the concepts of two phase commit to the Web services world. Being able to transfer a message between one Web service and another in a consistent and reliable way is a necessary basic function but not sufficient on its own.

Given this much wider goal of consistency and reliability it is clearer why IBM, Microsoft, BEA and Tibco are unhappy about the Oasis Reliable Messaging specification. It has not been designed with the other required functions and therefore may become unusable.

What is less clear is why Microsoft and IBM have been slow to bring the specifications to a standards body. Gates and Mills said in New York that they plan a series of workshop to introduce the specifications to a wider audience and after that they will submit them to a standards body. It is a good idea to ensure a specification is well formed before handing it over as a standard. But waiting until you have developed strong demonstration code leaves you open to two problems, firstly others will have gone their own way and developed competing standards, secondly you will be accused of giving yourself a head start on the competition if they try and implement your specification. Microsoft, IBM and to a lesser extent BEA and Tibco appear to have hit both these problems. We can only hope that the process of workshops will not delay a submission unduly. It would also help if the workshop were made more open and the results made more public.

So who will win this contest? Oasis, with Sun, Oracle and others, are coming close to publishing a standard and they will be unwilling to change to a new standard once it is in the market and in productive use. IBM and Microsoft have a more complete set of standards and greater market strength; if they can get to draft standards by the end of this year then the rest of the market will come in behind them. My money is on them.

Copyright 2003. Originally published by, reprinted with permission. provides IT decision makers with free daily e-mails containing news analysis, member-only discussion forums, free research, technology spotlights and free on-line consultancy. To register for a free e-mail subscription, click here.

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