Web services duel dismissed as 'overblown'

XML pioneer Jean Paoli is skeptical of a battle between the services

There are perceptions afoot of a web services war pitting SOAP-based WS-* services against REST services. But an official at Microsoft, which has spearheaded development of WS-* specifications, does not see the situation as being all that much of a conflict.

Jean Paoli, general manager of interoperability at Microsoft and also a pioneer in the development of XML, is dismissive of any assertion that the two web services strains are in some sort of battle. REST, however, has gained adherents lately, such as Ruby on Rails builder David Heinemeier Hansson, who have shown disdain for what they see as the complexity of   WS-* specifications.

Hansson and others even have mockingly called the specifications "ws death star," referring to the enemy battle station in "Star Wars." Developers in charge of the Rails framework switched emphasis from SOAP to REST services in version 2.0 of Rails in 2007.

But Paoli describes the situation as "overblown," stressing developers can make choices.

"You use as much as you need from any standard," he says. For simple web services, developers can use REST. For more complex needs, they can use WS-* services, he says. The WS-* palette of specifications features capabilities in areas such as security and reliable messaging.

Microsoft supports REST in technologies such as its Windows Communication Foundation for web services and its Windows Azure Storage Services for cloud computing.

Paoli and Craig Shank, general manager of interoperability strategy at Microsoft, emphasise various interoperability efforts at Microsoft ranging from document format work and collaborating on standards bodies to working with Novell on enabling Microsoft's Silverlight rich media technology to run on Linux. The company also has assisted in such  efforts as development of a PHP software development kit for Azure.

Microsoft late last month launched a website entitled "Interoperability Bridges & Lab Centre," detailing links between Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies.

"As a practical matter, we have a wide range of people who work on and are focused on interoperability," Shank says.

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