Microsoft, IBM Reveal New Spec. for Discovering Web Services

Microsoft Corp. continues todevelop specialty standards on top of the base Web services stack, teaming withIBM Corp. to propose a specification forInspection after announcing specs for licensing, routing and security lastmonth at its Professional Developer Conference.

The spec., called WS-Inspection, is designed to allow an application tointerface with a Web site in order to find out what Web services a particularorganization offers. Microsoft and IBM are touting WS-Inspection as complementaryto Universal Description, Discovery and Integration, a global directory forlisting Web services that IBM and Microsoft have been promoting heavily for thepast year.

Philip DesAutels, product manager of the XML Web Services group atMicrosoft, says while Web Services Description Language allows developers todescribe a specific service, and UDDI serves as a Yellow Pages for Webservices, “what we don’t have between [WSDL and UDDI] is a way to go in andtalk to the server.” According to DesAutels, WS-Inspection solves this problem.

Essentially, WS-Inspection is a public protocol for communicating withproxy servers, says DesAutels. He says it is based on the internal proxy-serverprotocols used by both Microsoft (DISCO) and IBM (ADS). “We took the best ofboth DISCO and ADS [to build WS-Inspection],” says DesAutels.

The key difference in how Microsoft and IBM are positioningWS-Inspection and UDDI lies in how the two technologies are used. Microsoft andIBM believe WS-Inspection is a better solution for organizations with existingrelationships to discover each other’s Web services. UDDI, on the other hand,is viewed in the mold of a traditional Yellow Pages directory thatorganizations can use to get a series of listings for Web services under differentcategories.

Nevertheless, WS-Inspection does seem to have some overlap with UDDI. IfWS-Inspection and UDDI are both adopted on a widespread scale, organizations insearch of Web services will have two ways of finding them.

Many opponents of UDDI argue that it is unreasonable to believeenterprises will use UDDI to create business relationships based simply on alisting in a registry. In a recent conversation with Web Services Report, MikeGilpin, vice president and research leader for Gaga Information Group, said ofUDDI in an enterprise environment, “Nobody’s going to wake up and go ‘Gee, Iwonder where I’ll buy stuff from today.”

At this point, Microsoft and IBM say WS-Inspection will allow developersto discover services that aren’t listed in UDDI registries. However, if doubtsabout UDDI like that which Gilpin and others have expressed continue to grow,WS-Inspection could emerge as an alternative.

WS-Inspection builds on the Simple Object Access Protocol discoverytechnology Microsoft’s Visual Studio .NET, which is slated for release by yearend. WS-Inspection implementations are also available with the latest versionof the IBM Web Services Toolkit 2.4.1. Both IBM and Microsoft are optimisticother industry leaders will soon declare support for WS-Inspection (Oracle, SunMicrosystems and BEA Systems have already announced support for theWS-Licensing, WS-Routing and WS-Security.). – Matt Migliore