Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A useless process

A few weeks ago, Microsoft, IBM and a number of their closest friends started the Technical Committee (TC) creation process within OASIS for the WS-Federation specification. As has been typical with the submission of the various WS-* specs to OASIS and the W3C, they proposed a charter that was an extremely ratcheted down requirement to publish the input document as close as possible to its current state (and they've gotten better with the ratcheting with each subsequent submission).

So much for the cooperative standardization process

This time, what was somewhat different than many of the previous WS-* submissions is that the functionality proposed in WS-Federation has substantial overlap with an existing standard specification which was approved as a standard more than two years ago -- SAML 2.0.

OASIS's TC creation includes a comment period which, in this case, was used by a number of OASIS participants including the likes of Nokia, France Telecom, Sun, Fujitsu, Oracle, and Neustar.

Many of the comments questioned the overlap in functionality between the 2-years-ago-standardized SAML 2.0 and the proposal.

The response to this input is recorded here. If you want the cliff notes version all you need is:

No changes to the proposed WSFED TC charter are required.

The only winning comment was Frederick Hirsch's comment about spurious characters in the charter -- this resulted in an agreement to remove them from the final charter document.

So, while there is a comment period, the proposers for the TC don't have any obligation to accept, listen to, or even pay attention to any such comments. In the session in which the comments are discussed, only the proposers can provide input, the commenters can't argue their case, nor can they do anything to impact the outcome of the treatment of their comments, even if they are being totally ignored.

OASIS and its members would be better served by a process that has some useful purpose. Asking people to provide comments and input that can be out-of-hand totally ignored is wasting their time in putting the input together, wasting the proposers time in having to organize and participate in the review meeting where they can simply ignore all input, and wasting the rest of our time in un-beleivably reading the out-of-hand dismissal 31 separate times.

So the official call for participation has been released now. The WS-Federation TC is forming under what many view as a flawed charter and a flawed standards process. Perhaps the not-so-nice response to this not-so-nice process would be to join the TC and to simply vote to block forward movement of the spec until these issues are resolved. Yeah, that's the nuclear option, but perhaps it's time to throw down the gauntlet and somehow drive some convergence in this market rather than continuing to drive separation.

Clearly I'm speaking, even more so than normal, from my non-PC personal point of view.

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