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SOA & Web Services: Will Sun "Destroy That Village In Order to Save It" (From Microsoft)?

Tim Bray's Anniversary Thoughts About Java and About Sun Microsystems Take On Extra Significance

"Web services and SOA aren’t boring," mused Sun's Tim Bray (pictured) 6 months ago in an essay about Sun's strategy that everyone seems to have forgotten. "But we may have to destroy that village in order to save it," he continued. Has that process now begun? Do SOA and Web services represent the grass that's about to be trampled as two familiar i-Technology elephants – Sun and Microsoft – fight?

I ask the question because Joe McKendrick was kind enough recently to blog my weekend thoughts about whether the "Web" in Web services is a misnomer. "Increasingly the market is talking more and more about SOAs," McKendrick wrote, in his follow-up, "and less about Web services."

He continued: "In fact, nobody talks about WSOAs, because Web services are but one enabling aspect of SOAs. It will only make sense that 'services' will eventually be the operative term in this space."

But this is not news. Not new news anyway. Both McKendrick - and his colleage Britton Manasco, who noticed that .NET Developer's Journal's editor-in-chief Derek Ferguson had written an opinion piece called "SOA Sucks" - seem to be unaware that Sun's own Tim Bray, he of the blog "Ongoing" among other community achievements, had done some "thinking aloud" just over six months ago, on the occasion of his 1st anniversary as a Sun employee, in which he appears to have let out of the bag the tactical cat that Sun's president and COO Jonathan Schwartz sprung on the world last week when he declared that the PC is "so yesterday" because the desktop is no longer what matters.

What has become important, Schwartz said, are "Web services on the Internet and the mobile phones most will use to access them":

"The majority of the applications that will drive the next wave of innovation will be services, not applications that run on the desktop. The real innovation is occurring in the network and the network services."

Bray anticipated just this approach back in March, when he wrote:

"I think Sun, to compete successfully against IBM’s Global Services infantry and Microsoft’s Windows/Office entrenchments, has to get out in front and exercise thought leadership. We brought the computer that assumes a network to market, and did well. We brought the filesystem that spans the network to market, and did well. We brought the Unix operating system with commercial documentation and support to market, and did well. We brought RISC processors to market, and did well. We brought a clean minimal Object-Oriented infrastructure to market, and did well. All of those things are conventional wisdom now, but when Sun first did them, they were way out in front."

What is not "conventional thinking" is the Schwartz-Bray attempt to pull the terminological rug out from underneath the feet of Microsoft, whose .NET assumes that passing XML across industry-standard networking protocols such as HTTP and TCP is the primary key to where the industry is going, and instead actively take the "Web" out of web services.

Let's look again at Bray's remark: "Web services and SOA aren’t boring, but we may have to destroy that village in order to save it." The suggestion seems to be that what Sun needs to do is to redefine "Web services" itself; and that, or so it seems to me, is the exact process that has begun.

Ted Neward, for one, has already made his position clear by dropping the "Web" in Web services:

"The problem is that when we say "Web services", the "web" part of it implies HTTP and REST and all that other stuff. It's time we faced reality: SOAP is not just for doing stuff over the Internet. It's time we started calling them what they are: XML services. Unfortunately, I don't think the W3C is going to change the name of WSDL to XSDL or XS-Addressing any time soon, but that doesn't stop us from at least trying. My promise: if you catch me, in a presentation or class lecture, using the term "Web services", and you're the first to point it out, I owe you a quarter."
Neward's alternative, "XML services," is a term that doesn't yet have much currency. "Network services" seems to be what Sun would prefer. 

It should be an interesting few months!


More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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