New Spec Tackles Web Services Coordination

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2003-07-29 Print this article Print

New spec launched Monday by a group of Web services supporters including IONA, Arjuna, Oracle and Sun.

A group of Web services supporters including IONA Technologies PLC, Arjuna Technologies Ltd., Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. have announced a new Web services specification known as the Web Services Composite Applications Framework (WS-CAF). Eric Newcomer, co-author of the specification and Waltham, Mass.-based chief technology officer at IONA, said WS-CAF is a set of three specifications, including Web Service Context (WS-CTX), Web Service Coordination Framework (WS-CF) and Web Service Transaction Management (WS-TXM). The overall specification is aimed at solving the problem of coordinating multiple Web services. The group announced the specification Monday. Newcomer said WS-CAF deals with the problem of handling transaction processing in a Web services environment by defining a multi-level framework for coordinating business processes across a variety of transaction processing models and architectures, such as those from IBM Corp. and others.
Newcomer said he and Mark Little, a co-founder of Newcastle, U.K.-based Arjuna, started the initial work on WS-CAF two years ago.
"The specs are in the transaction area, which is one of the last unresolved areas in Web services," Newcomer said. "This is a new transaction model for business process automation that nobodys done before." The Web Service Context specification defines a framework for context management that enables Web services to share a common context to share information about a common end result. WS-CF notifies Web services involved in a transaction of certain outcome. And WS-TXM consists of three protocols and enables Web services to negotiate potential outcomes and make a common decision on what it should be. WS-TXM works across disparate execution environments, such as the Common Object Request Broker Architecture, IBMs MQ Series, Enterprise JavaBeans, .Net or others. In addition, WS-CAF "is compatible with whats already out there," Newcomer said. "Its meant to complement something like BPEL [Business Process Execution Language]." And it is compatible with the WS-Transaction specification and the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) Business Transaction Protocol, he said. Newcomer said the group is looking to donate the WS-CAF specification to a standards body under royalty-free license. "We expect to go to a standards committee at some point, but wed really like to get into a discussion with IBM and Microsoft along the way to get their acceptance of the work," he said. About a year ago, Microsoft and IBM published specifications that provide similar functionality (Web Service-Coordination (WS-C) and Web Service-Transaction (WS-T). Meanwhile, both Oracle and Sun have done "a thorough review of the WS-CAF specification" and have provided technical support and marketing support as well. "Whats needed is for these vendors to all work together to solve common, big issues, not to create a whole onslaught of specifications, each of which solves one particular part of an overall puzzle," said Ron Schmelzer, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, a Cambridge, Mass.-based market research firm. "The result will be a mass of confusing, and probably non-interoperable, specifications. At some point, these are all going to need to be tied together anyway, so why wait for the customer or the WS-I [Web Services Interoperability Organization] to do it?"
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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