Here comes WSTF

A new Web services-related industry body has been announced today: WSTF (Web Services Test Forum). More details about it from Infoworld. My employer (Oracle) seems to be one of the drivers (along with IBM) but I am not personally involved.

A lot of hand-wringing, of course, about its relationship with WS-I. Which is understandable if you consider what WS-I was originally supposed to deliver (profiles, sample applications and testing tools). But not if you consider what it has actually delivered that is relevant (a couple of profiles, some time ago). WSTF could also be compared with the SOAPBuilders Yahoo group, but since that group has seen only two emails messages so far in 2008 (last one dated April 2nd), it seems safe to consider it dead. It would be interesting to know why that is though (it used to be pretty active in the early days) and what lesson WSTF may learn from it. Another effort you may want to compare this to is the Microsoft Web Services Protocol Workshops Process. It’s too early to tell, but they may turn out to be more closely related than meets the eye.

I noticed this innocuous-sounding sentence in the press release (warning, PDF): “As an open community, WSTF has made it easy to introduce new interoperability scenarios and approve work through simple majority governance”. You may wonder why this is important enough to figure in the press release.

I interpret it as a dog whistle call (heard only by those to whom it is intended) for the WS-I board. Microsoft’s Paul Cotton responds to it in his quote for Infoworld: “WS-I provides a proven and open organization and process that best suits our customers’ needs”. He also talks about “the incredible industry-wide momentum and leadership of WS-I”, which is indeed not very credible (especially the momentum part). The WS-I process, associated board politics and resulting inaction is what I was talking about in this entry (“veto rules being commonly invoked, stopping most of the activities that the resort was originally planning to offer”).

Speaking of this “Standardstown” blog entry, I should probably soon update it to include WSTF. What should it be? Maybe a trailer park in which customers bring their own lodging, put them side by side and see how they line up?

The current test scenarios seem to focus on fixing the interoperability mess that is WS-Addressing. I assume more will soon be added to test the different WS-* specifications out there. It will be interesting to see what direction WSTF takes after that. Will the payloads of the test messages be obvious dummy payloads (so that the focus is on testing the implementation of the WS-* protocols)? Or will they start to include real payloads (e.g. real purchase orders from real enterprise applications)? How about this: “dear vendor, I will only buy your wonderfully open, standard and interoperable Web services-based application when it is available as a WSTF endpoint and there are three other real-life products (including one from your main competitor) that successfully interoperate with the exact same SOAP messages I will be using”. This could become an interesting tussle between vendors as well as between vendors and buyers.

Alternatively, of course, WSTF could turn into a test of how much difference there is between a “standard” and a publicly specified and interop-tested interaction scenario…

A quick (and unsuccesful) Technorati search for some blog comments returns the “WSTF Dark Retribution Dinorobots Limited Giftset” which “includes all five Dinorobots in their sinister evil incarnation”. Can’t say you were not warned…

[UPDATED 2008/12/10: Gilbert Pilz, who was involved with WSTF from the start (and also left a comment on this entry, see below), wrote a detailed description of the problem WSTF tries to address and how Gilbert and others have structured WSTF to solve it.]

[UPDATED 2008/12/15: Via InfoQ, another long description of the goals and processes of WSTF, this time from Doug Davis.]

[UPDATES 2009/1/5: Chris Ferris also weighs in, including his view on the relationship with WS-I. Having participated in several of the early WS-I plenary meetings, I have to wonder if Chris had any double-entente in mind when he wrote that WS-I helps “the community understand where the bar is”.]

[UPDATED 2009/2/17: A response from Redmond.]

1 Comment

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One Response to Here comes WSTF

  1. Speaking as someone who was involved in the WSTF from the very beginning, I would say the main point of the WSTF is to get the end-users of these technologies involved in the process of testing interoperability. One of the WS-I’s shortcomings is that fact that, at this point, it is largely a bunch of vendors sitting around wondering how people actually use the specs that we are profiling. This lack of visibility into the real world use cases is crippling when you are trying to figure out where the real interoperability problems are.

    It’s also interesting that you mention SoapBuilders. In my mind, the Basic Profile is a solid piece of work because SoapBuilders did the work of flushing out where the pain points are in SOAP 1.1, WSDL 1.1, etc. were. It could be that the WSTF ends up saving the WS-I from itself.