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Developers Hope WSDL Spec Will Ensure Tools As Robust As DCE and CORBA IDL Compilers Before Web Services

Developers Hope WSDL Spec Will Ensure Tools As Robust As DCE and CORBA IDL Compilers Before Web Services

(February 15, 2002) - Tim Ewald is well known for his sense of humor. He is well known for being able to use James Gosling's Emacs and Microsoft's VS.NET with equal facility - even on the same day! And now, through no fault of his own, he is equally well known for having been the co-signatory of an open letter to Santa Claus last Christmas asking for a WSDL Working Group to be formed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Web's premier standards body.

Two months on, though, the principal scientist at component software think-tank DevelopMentor - whose day job is specializing in the effective application of cutting-edge component technologies to the production of scalable distributed systems - has begun to rue the day he ever wrote what he calls "the now infamous letter to Santa."

After our earlier story ("If Only Santa Had Listened To Those Web Services Experts…"), Ewald is eager to clarify that his letter to Santa was intended only to flag up some technical shortcomings of WSDL, and not to criticize the World Wide Web Consortium in any way.

"At the time I wrote the now infamous letter to Santa in the first week of December," he tells the WSJ News Desk, "I knew there were discussions about forming a WSDL working group and that a vote was being taken with a result expected later that month. However, I couldn't get confirmation about the formation of such a group one way or another."

The W3C for its part (see previous story, "W3C Sets Record Straight On New Web Services Alliance") maintains that Ewald and his Santa-letter coauthor Martin Gudgin ought to have known that they really didn't need to have troubled Santa, since a W3C Working Group for WSDL was within days of being formed by W3C.

Ewald, who is well-known as caring about the world around him ("Tim has a lot of empathy for his fellow earthlings, especially those who need to write software. If the UN were to appoint a human rights ambassador to the software industry, Tim would be the ideal candidate," says one friend) doesn't entirely agree it's quite that clear-cut. "To say that Martin and I should have known a WSDL working group was in the works is somewhat disingenuous," he counters, "the result of the vote wasn't expected until the middle of the month and it wasn't clear, to me at least, what the outcome would be." Indeed, he believed at the time that the result wouldn't become clear until several weeks after the open letter to Santa was published.

However, adds Ewald, none of this really matters now…because in actuality he and Gudgin got everything they wished for. "The W3C gave us the working group we wanted," he says, "it's addressing the problems we raised (as well as a host of others), and we're very happy."

What, then, was the purpose of the letter? "We wanted to raise some issues about WSDL that we feel need attention," explains Ewald, "and there wasn't yet a working group to send them to, so, in the spirit of the holiday season, we sent them to Santa instead." He adds: "But all of this is irrelevant, because the letter to Santa wasn't a criticism of the W3C (an organization Martin and I both wholeheartedly support) or its rate of progress on the very difficult task of hammering out Web service standards."

"In short," Ewald concludes, "the letter to Santa was intended to be amusing and technically interesting, nothing more."

All's well that ends well, it would seem. For the record, Ewald continues to believe that the best way to make interoperability easy to achieve - which he views as being the key to the success of the Web services model - would be to move to the IDL-centric model used by the classic RPC technologies of the past. And to facilitate that, he hopes that the WSDL Working Group will radically rework WSDL…and ultimately simplify it.

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SOA World Magazine News Desk trawls the world of distributed computing and SOA-related developments for the latest word on technologies, standards, products, and services and brings key information to you in a timely and convenient summary form.

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