SOA Interoperability Not Enough

WS-Policy interoperation is a good start, but more needs to be done

Layer 7 Technologies last week announced the interoperability of its security technology with application servers from several major vendors, using a proposed standard that could lead to easier security administration in Web services environments.

The XML gateway company said it has achieved interoperability with app servers and middleware from IBM, SAP, BEA, Sun, and Microsoft, using Web Services Policy (WS-Policy), which defines a framework for the use and transport of Web services.

The WS-Policy specification will make it easier for Web services users to define the requirements--including security rules--for linking Web services applications. For example, a WS-Policy could require that a request be encrypted and signed with a specific algorithm, or that it should be compressed. Web services use the policy to establish a trusted interface between applications and ensure that security requirements have been met.

"The WS-* suite is full of specifications no one needs, but WS-Policy is critical for centralized management, change control, and rapid deployment of services," says Scott Morrison, Director of Architecture for Layer 7.

Anne Thomas Manes, VP and research director at Burton Group, agrees. "The lack of a standardized policy framework is a big hole, and needs to get standardized as quickly as possible. Today, there is no centralized way to configure Web services, which means Web services need to be configured individually."

The WS-Policy specification was submitted to the W3C on April 25, and still must work its way through the standardization process. "Demonstrating interoperability is important, because it shows the industry and standards bodies that interoperability is practical today," says Phil Watson, senior product manager for Layer 7.

Thomas Manes and other experts agree that standardization and limited interoperability are a good start. But until the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) group publishes an interoperability profile that removes ambiguity in the specifications, the value of an interoperability test is limited, they say.

Final approval of the WS-I profiles is still at least a year or two away, according to observers. In the meantime, enterprises should require vendors to demonstrate interoperability between products or use a Web services proxy to do the work, experts advise.

— Mike Fratto, Editor at Large, Dark Reading

Organizations mentioned in this story

  • BEA Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BEAS)
  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)
  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)
  • SAP AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: SAP)
  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)