While making a bet on Microsoft and the .NET platform isnt a bad idea going forward, its always a good idea to keep an eye on what the other major players are doing in the Web services arena. In this section, Ill discuss briefly what Microsofts competitors were up to at the time this book went to press. By this point in time, most of the major enterprise platform providers and tool developers are providing some level of Web services support in their products.
On the standards front, I have already discussed how Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Fujitsu, and others have teamed up to submit their WS-Reliability specification to OASIS in advance of Microsoft, IBM, and others submitting WS-ReliableMessaging. In addition, some of Microsoft and IBMs competitors have forged ahead with their own security initiatives, namely SAML and the Liberty Alliance. SAML, an initiative driven by Sun Microsystems, BEA, Cisco, Tivoli, and others, is an XML-based assertion framework that can be used to describe the authentication and authorization required to access a Web service. SAML was published as a standard by OASIS in 2002. Since then, Microsoft, IBM, and VeriSign have released a WS-Security Profile for XML Tokens that describes how to leverage SAML within the WS-Security framework.
The Liberty Alliance was originally pioneered by Sun Microsystems as an apparent reaction to Microsofts .NET Passport initiative, which proposes a single- sign-in solution for Internet authentication. The Liberty Alliance has taken this one step further, proposing an open -source, standards-based solution for creating a federated authentication network. To that end, the Liberty Alliance has proposed its own suite of protocols, independent of WS-Trust and other IBM- and Microsoft- backed specifications for federation and policy.
Those of you who lived through the great browser wars of the late twentieth century may still be bitter over either the battle with Netscape Navigator or the ensuing antitrust suit brought against Microsoft. Those were clearly dark days for the industry. You may also become antsy at the thought of battle lines being drawn up with Sun Microsystems, Oracle, and a host of other J2EE folks on one side and IBM, Microsoft, and other .NET-friendly folks on the other. Fortunately, all of the major players have signed on to the WS-I Organization, with new seats on the board of directors (which initially consisted of Accenture, BEA Systems, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP) being opened up for both Sun Microsystems and webMethods. While this might not seem like a big deal, getting Sun Microsystems on board with the WS-I will inevitably serve to drive the .NET and J2EE camps closer together on the issue of Web services interoperability.