Bleepin BPELs

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2003-04-28 Print this article Print

It's not just the customers that got dinged; however, it appears that the W3C also got dinged.

Is it possible that something once pronounced Bipple and now Be-PEL is shaking up the Web services world? Is something as dry as Business Process Execution Language signaling an important split in Web services standards groups? Are Microsoft, IBM and BEA icing Oracle and Sun and their customers?

The answer to each is yes.

The decision of IBM, BEA and Microsoft (has anyone realized that the names of the big-three Web services players create an acronym for IBM?) to put a tiny specification for how Web services orchestration should occur into OASIS rather than the W3C sealed the developing split between the two groups. The result of the split is not antagonism, however. OASIS and the W3C are no longer competitors for standards; theyre now perfectly complementary.

But first the news and why its important. Before Web services can be useful outside a corporate intranet, there needs to be a way to create processes that invoke other processes that correspond to a business workflow. For example, if a company gets pricing quotes from a supplier, the company may want to use a Web service that triggers a database query from the supplier. If the order is placed, a series of events has to take place, including products taken off the supplier inventory and added to the buyers system. Also, multiple processes must be invoked to add to both the suppliers and the buyers financial applications.

How that flow is accomplished is called orchestration, and its the main goal of BPEL4WS—or BPEL for Web Services. BPEL is a completely arbitrary standard, however. These same kinds of transactions have happened for 20 years; they were just expensive, limited in scope and usually handled among a small set of partners. Even at the dawn of the Web services age, BPEL-like standards had begun to emerge, including Web Services Choreography Interface—WSCI, pronounced Whiskey, of all things. Web services theoretically reduce the cost and complexity of a Web services implementation, though its too early to say this is true with any confidence.

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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