An End to Web Services Confusion on the Horizon

Four industry heavyweights are joining forces to develop a standard that merges a number of confusing and overlapping Web services management standards.

September 20, 2006

5 Min Read
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Web services are notoriously complex. Toss in the overlap between the two big management standards governing them, and the confusion grows.

Cooperation among some industry heavyweights, however, promises to go a long way toward simplifying the next generation of Web services management standards. Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel and Microsoft are attempting to smooth out the conflicts between OASIS' (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) WSDM (Web Services Distributed Management) and DMTF's (Distributed Management Task Force) WS-Management, by working to combine these standards. Responding to customers' appeals for simplification, the four vendors released a joint white paper in March that calls for a single interoperable standard.

But the path to this new world order for Web services management won't be trouble-free: The DMTF and OASIS have recently released new versions of the standards to be converged, and until a single standard is approved, these versions must be supported by the four vendors. In addition, there are six lesser-known standards--WS-Transfer, WS-Enumeration, WS-Eventing, WS-MetadataExchange, WS-ResourceFramework and WS-Notification--that must be covered by the future converged one.

Common Ground

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Merge Ahead

The vendors' "Toward Converging Web Service Standards for Resources, Events, and Management" white paper acknowledges that a single standard for Web services management is necessary to gain widespread adoption of those services. Each of the four companies claims a desire to speed adoption by reducing duplication in Web services management; of course, it's in each vendor's interest to speed adoption since each is seeking to expand Web services support in its products. The companies also say that a single standard will reduce development costs.

Meantime, HP, IBM, Intel and Microsoft are all involved in the ongoing work of both standards bodies and have released SDKs that support the latest upgrades. The vendors acknowledge that to avoid even more disruption in Web service deployments and product development, their convergence work will track and synchronize with existing and new standards.

The convergence is likely to happen more quickly than most standards processes. In a typical standards development process, each component of the standard is held up to public scrutiny, but the process that HP, IBM, Intel and Microsoft are embarking on is private and so must be ratified by only a small number of people. The usual group process either hammers out a better standard or drops it to the lowest common denominator, but at the cost of time and relevance of possible products.Complementary But Intersecting

Simplifying the standards will, of course, be complicated. WSDM has two sections, MUWS (WSDM Management Using Web Services) and MOWS (WSDM Management Of Web Services ). WS-Management overlaps with MUWS: They both deal with primary management functions, such as getting and setting data, as well as notification of events. However, MOWS is a superset of MUWS and thus WS-Management, and it relies on the underlying SOAP and XML stack. MOWS also represents a management endpoint that, while software, must be managed just like a system or network device.

WSDM and WS-Management don't compete with each other; rather, they have grown from different management needs. WSDM approaches Web services from an application point of view, defining how service entities can be managed or used to manage. DMTF, naturally, has a systems and infrastructure bent, having defined the DMI (Desktop Management Interface), SMBIOS and CIM (Common Information Model) standards. WS-Management originated as Microsoft's vision of using Web services to manage systems.

Enterprise EffectIt's also too early to know exactly which products or functions will be affected by the converged standard. But it's obvious that each vendor's products will benefit. It might seem like HP, IBM, Intel and Microsoft have a cartel on the management space, and in a sense they do. They sell the market-leading products--OpenView (HP), Tivoli (IBM) and System Center (Microsoft). And Intel is, well, Intel. But needs not completely met by these products have been addressed by third-party management products. So the four vendors and their customers depend on third-party relationships; this entire ecosystem will be affected by a converged standard. Multiple standards increase development time and cost, slowing and diffusing improvements. But the simplification is in the best interests of other vendors, enterprise IT and end users.

Since it could take as long as 24 months for the standard to fully form and longer to make its way into the mainstream, enterprise users will not feel the effects of the convergence for quite a while. If you're contemplating Web services management purchases, this extensive time to market and backward compatibility with existing standards will protect your investment. n

Bruce Boardman, is an NWC contributing editor. Write to him at [email protected].

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