September 25, 2004

WS* Effect Considered Harmful

Service Oriented Architectures By: ams

Via Mike Dierken we found this wonderful tidbit from Adam Bosworth stating

I have a posted comment about just using XML over HTTP. Yes. I’m trying, right now to figure out if there is any real justification for the WS-* standards and even SOAP in the face of the complexity when XML over HTTP works so well. Reliable messaging would be such a justification, but it isn’t there. Eventing might be such a justification, but it isn’t there either and both specs are tied up in others in a sort of spec spaghetti. So, I’m kind of a skeptic of the value apart from the toolkits. They do deliver some value, (get a WSDL, instant code to talk to service), but what I’m really thinking about is whether there can’t be a much simpler kindler way to do this.

Amen. Stick a fork in WS-*, because as Simon says, Web Services are receding:

Web Services are on their way to a CORBA-like market: sort of interoperable, vendor-ridden, and critically important to a small number of people. If that’s the case, then maybe the rest of us can return to vanilla XML HTTP, sometimes known as REST.

Ah, how we all pine for a simpler time, before WS-* made everything feel so much more complicated than Web applications should feel… since I don’t have anything more constructive to say, we’ll pile on with some beautiful words from Sean McGrath:

The whole WS standards thing has more moving parts than a 747. Much of it recently invented, untested and unproven in the real world.

Given that there are no exceptions to Gall’s Law:

    A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.

I believe WS-YouMustBeJoking is doomed to collapse under its own weight. Good riddance to it.

Why has this situation come about? Because smart people had neural spasms? No. Because smart people realise that this stuff is *real* important and commercial agendas are at work all over the map.

The most important document to read if you want to understand the WS-IfThisIsProgressImAMonkeysUncle cacophony is How to wage and win a standards war by Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian.

That felt so satisfying to read, I’m going out back for a cigarette… 😉

For more wonderful backlash, see also Tim Bray’s The Loyal WS-Opposition:

No matter how hard I try, I still think the WS-* stack is bloated, opaque, and insanely complex. I think it’s going to be hard to understand, hard to implement, hard to interoperate, and hard to secure.

I look at Google and Amazon and EBay and Salesforce and see them doing tens of millions of transactions a day involving pumping XML back and forth over HTTP, and I can’t help noticing that they don’t seem to need much WS-apparatus.

I’m deeply suspicious of “standards” built by committees in advance of industry experience, and I’m deeply suspicious of Microsoft and IBM, and I’m deeply suspicious of multiple layers of abstraction that try to get between me and the messages full of angle-bracketed text that I push around to get work done.

This led to WS-PageCount, with a followup and a reference to WS-Halloween.

For more backlash, see also Mike Gunderloy’s WS-JustSayNo. (which quoth, “One of the powerful concepts in Extreme Programming is YAGNI, which stands for You Aren’t Gonna Need It. The idea is simple: implement things when you need them, not when you think you might need them in the future. As far as I’m concerned, this applies to most Web services experiments today.”)

For a more even-tempered approach, see Phil Wainewright’s WS-LooseCoupling.

And for those optimistic folks who still believe in the Web Services stack and/or want to know how all the pieces fit together and lead to Nirvana, see Microsoft’s just-released An Introduction to the Web Services Architecture.

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