Customers will lose in web services war, warns Gartner
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The phoney war in web services is over and hostilities are about to break out to shatter any displays of unity, according to research firm Gartner Group.

Gartner is warning its clients that what it calls the “illusion of Web services unity cultivated by IBM and Microsoft” is about to be shattered. “Enterprises should prepare for a flurry of Web services disagreements among vendors,” cautions Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer.

The research firm notes that athough competing vendors typically fail to agree on anything, one of the essential value propositions of Web services is that the major vendors agree on the core standards of what makes up a Web service. But it adds that it’s also essential for suppliers to reach higher levels of agreement on how business processes should interoperate.

Gartner cites Sun’s non-participation in the Web Services Interoperability Organisation as the first fragmentation of unity. Sun is driving its own organisation, Libery, which does not compete directly with WS-I but Gartner fears that co-operation between the two groups is not likely to be forthcoming.

“The likely result will be that Sun and Liberty (in which Sun is a driving force) will be less amenable to negotiating contractual changes to Liberty’s membership contract that would satisfy IBM and Microsoft’s concerns (such as ownership of intellectual property) — which, in turn would allow IBM/Microsoft to join Liberty,” warns Plummer.

Nonethless striking a note of optimism, Gartner does predict that Sun will eventually join WS-I as a working group member and that IBM and Microsoft will join Liberty for independent reasons, but it urgers that Sun should swallow its pride and join WS-I as a working group member as soon as possible, regardless of whether it ever becomes a board member.

In the meantime, it expects that the rejection of Sun’s attempt to become a founding member of WS-I will cause a backlash of fragmentation in the Web services industry until at least 2005 with high level standards, such as security and process management, impacted the most.

But it’s not just Sun v the rest of the world that concerns Gartner. While it notes that IBM nad Microsoft have managed to pull off two years of co-operations, it gloomily predicts that this harmony will not last beyond the end of next year. In a further blow to IBM’s pride, Gartner argues that Big Blue’s patents on eb XML do not represent practical web services anyway.

The losers in all this will be customers. “Enterprises will be the losers in this competition of juvenile antics,”| concludes Plummer. “Enterprises should lobby all vendors involved to put aside their differences and cooperate in their “pseudo” standards organizations.”

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