New Spec Tackles Web Services Coordination

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?"