Microsoft walks out on web services standards group

Joins IBM in private dance outside W3C 'choreography' group

Joins IBM in private dance outside W3C 'choreography' group

In a sign of growing discord over web services guidelines, Microsoft has pulled out of a key web services standards working group. Over the past month, IBM and Microsoft have been at odds with other companies around standards submissions, including a high-profile effort within the web's leading standards organisation, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Now Microsoft has upped the levels of agro by dropping out of a W3C working group focused on establishing rules for how businesses will send and receive data to one another via web services. The company withdrew from the W3C's so-called choreography group because it determined that the scope of the group did not align well with the work of two Microsoft researchers who attended the initial meeting, said Steven VanRoekel, director of web services marketing for Microsoft. VanRoekel described the Microsoft research on "contract language," which deals with ways two pieces of software communicate, as only partially related to the notion of automated business processes through web services. He added that the W3C "is not the only vehicle in which to impact and evaluate a set of technologies". The move is the latest in a series of manoeuvres between companies and standards bodies that highlights a growing friction around industry guidelines. Critics contend that Microsoft and IBM, which also is not participating in the W3C group, are causing confusion through attempts to exert their influence over an increasingly contentious process to define agreed-upon methods for exchanging information using web services standards. Web services is an umbrella term to describe methods for building applications that can easily share information across disparate computing systems. Through standards organisations such as the W3C, information technology providers and their customers create blueprints that define how companies will build future products. In this case, the choreography working group at the W3C met earlier this month to sort out proposals for describing how businesses will communicate with each other during a multistep process. After initially indicating it would not attend, Microsoft at the last moment sent two researchers to the two-day meeting, held on 13 and 14 March, and described its view on what a choreography language should do, according to attendees. Microsoft, IBM and BEA have written their own specification for a web services choreography, also called orchestration, but have not yet submitted it to a standards body for consideration. However, only a few days after the initial meeting, Microsoft notified the committee's co-chairman that the company planned to withdraw. Steve Ross-Talbot, the W3C's choreography co-chair, who is also chief scientist at software company Enigmatec, said he was "mystified and stunned" at the move. He urged Microsoft and IBM to provide input on choreography to complement the W3C's work. The working group's charter is to define a programming language for describing how a web services application will behave in an external business process. For example, a manufacturer could write an application describing how the various elements of a purchase order should interact with its partners' systems and with certain types of employees. The group intends to have a specification prepared within a year and software tests to check compliance within two years. Martin LaMonica writes for News.com