Specs Advance Web Services Reliability

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2003-03-13

Specs Advance Web Services Reliability

Microsoft Corp., IBM, BEA Systems Inc. and Tibco Software Inc. Thursday announced two new Web services specifications that advance Web services reliability, but that also seemingly compete with existing Web services reliability efforts put forth by Sun Microsystems Inc., Oracle Corp. and others.

The two new specifications are known as WS-ReliableMessaging and WS-Addressing, and they support the reliable, end-to-end delivery of Web services messaging, officials of the companies said. Meanwhile, IBM and Microsoft also announced a road map titled "Reliable Message Delivery in a Web Services World: A Proposed Architecture and Roadmap," which defines a basic architecture—including protocols, data formats and scenarios—for Web services reliability.

However, the newly announced specifications run close to the WS-Reliability specification that Sun, Oracle, Iona Technologies Inc., Sonic Software Corp., Fujitsu Limited, Hitachi Ltd., NEC Corp., CommerceOne Operations Inc., SeeBeyond Technology Corp., webMethods Inc. and SAP AG submitted as a proposed standard and built the Web Services Reliable Messaging (WS-RM) Technical Committee around in the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).

Although elements of the two Web services reliability standards efforts are different, the naming and timing are enough to confuse developers and confuse the industry as Web services continue to gain in popularity and as the community needs to unite to overcome obstacles to widespread adoption, sources said.

However, Karla Norsworthy, director of dynamic e-business technology at IBM, said, "We hope it is not confusing. Its our strong goal to drive toward a single industry goal in this space." The IBM/Microsoft-led group had been working on its specification when the Sun/Oracle-led group announced its efforts, Norsworthy said, adding, "We said wed really like to finish our work and publish it, and then drive toward convergence."

Steven Van Roekel, director of Web services at Microsoft, said the goal is to follow a similar path that IBM and Microsoft took with WS-Security, a security specification that wound up in OASIS. "Well get industry feedback and some point in the future take it to a standards body," he said, but added that it is too soon to say where the specification will go.

In an interview with eWEEK, Jeff Mischkinsky, Oracles director of Web services and the companys lead representative on the OASIS WS-RM technical committee, said he could not speak for what "IBsoft" is doing in this space, but that the OASIS group is set to have its first meeting in two weeks. Mischkinsky said he believes companies "should not be competing on standards, we should be competing on products."

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The WS-ReliableMessaging specification, which was published by IBM, Microsoft, BEA and Tibco, defines a protocol for ensuring that unreceived and duplicate messages can be detected, and received messages can be processed in the order in which they were sent. IBM, Microsoft and BEA published WS-Addressing, which is "a piece of infrastructure that will enable bidirectional, synchronous and asynchronous" Web services messaging, Norsworthy said. And it supports transmission across networks, including across end-point managers, firewalls and gateways, the companies said.

"Microsoft, IBM and Tibco are presenting a separate specification effort that differs from the OASIS spec in that it attempts to solve the issue of reliability along the whole end-to-end conversation of a Web service interaction including orchestrated steps across composite Web services that may traverse many different intermediate points and protocols," said Ron Schmelzer, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, a Cambridge, Mass., research firm. "Imagine a SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol] request hopping from HTTP to MQ Series to a proprietary bus and back to HTTP and guaranteeing the reliability of that whole process. My guess is that they want to bolster the SOAP headers with reliability specifications that will persist with the message, rather than be applicable for particular end points. As part of this, supposedly, they will be providing a spec that doesnt require acknowledgement messages to be sent to each participating end point, but rather either succeed or fail reliably."

"[Competing standards] could not be a good thing for the widespread adoption of Web services," Schmelzer said. "Just as usage of Web services is taking off, vendors are pulling customers in different directions by encouraging them to support open standards that conflict with each other. The WS-I [Web Services Interoperability organization] has to step in here, in our opinion, to take control and start to establish a way in which specifications can be reliably implemented. This is only going to get worse. The process standards—orchestration, composition, transaction, flow and business process—are very complicated, and well probably see a zillion different "open" specifications in this area. In fact, the term open is rapidly becoming meaningless. Who cares if a spec is open if there are a dozen other open standards just like it competing for the attention of customers? What clearly is needed is not open but truly standard. I dont know if were going to see that soon in the Web services space in 2003."

John Kiger, director of Web services at BEA, said: While both specifications aim to address the need for reliable messaging services, they differ significantly in implementation specifics. For example, the WS-ReliableMessaging and WS-Addressing specifications cleanly separate the issues of reliability from asynchrony, and also define how to specify the policies for a Web service that describe the capabilities and requirements for the messaging associated with that service."

As for where the specifications will wind up, he added, "We are currently evaluating a number of options for working within various industry standards groups. Our goal is to create a widely adopted, open, royalty-free reliable messaging standard."

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