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Keeping It WS-Simple

Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Years ago, I helped put two large systems together. We were C++, they were Java. We were Microsoft based, they were Unix based. We were an Internet startup approaching the bursting bubble, they were a Fortune 50 company in the midst of a refinancing boom. During the initial integration we used beta 1 of the Microsoft SOAP Toolkit 2.0 (released in December of 2000). They used the Apache SOAP 2.1 toolkit (pre-AXIS), which I believe the Apache team released in February of 2001.

The toolkits worked. We moved a tremendous amount of information about mortgages back and forth. Of course, there were some hitches here and there, but nothing we couldn’t figure out after a quick search of soap-user. It was simple – just so plain and simple.

Because of this experience, I have great deal of reservations over all of these WS specifications. I believe if I were to approach that same project today, the experience would involve considerably more pain. Someone would want to use a WS toolkit here and there, and we’d be buried just trying to pass an XML fragment back and forth. It is going to take at least 3 to 5 years to shake out everybody’s interpretation and implementation of the specs to reach a plateau of interoperability, as well as revisions and fine-tuning to the specs themselves. You might say I am a member of the loyal opposition.

Do we need more standards? Yes. Do we need them now? Yes. Amazon could use them. Ted says the WS stacks are overkill for Amazon, but even though they may do millions of web service transactions, these are transactions in the loose sense of the word, not transactions in the cash flow sense of the word, just ask Carl. Everyone seems to agree the specifications are bulky and opaque. What company would offer web services for the masses based on specifications the tool vendors can’t keep up with?

After four years of web service hype, simple is still the only approach that works for everyone. It's going to be a long, slow road. It will give everyone time to mix in practical experience with the thoery of specifications.