IBM, Microsoft Corp. and BEA Systems Inc. are on tap to submit the Business Processing Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS) specification to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Systems (OASIS), marking yet another standard for orchestrating Web services.
Sources said the specification is all but in the hands of OASIS, except for a formal announcement. An OASIS spokeswoman did not respond to eWEEK attempts for comment on the issue.
BPEL4WS, announced last year, is a platform for executing business processes so they can be more easily reused and integrated with other processes. The specification is the result of blending two specifications from IBM and Microsoft into one. BPEL4WS features workflow standards including those involving process definition, and it enables simple execution of those processes in a Web services environment, officials of the companies said.
However, some see the submission of BPEL4WS to OASIS as a controversial move, in that it goes counter to existing efforts to standardize this space. Sun Microsystems Inc. and Oracle Corp. are supporters of the Web Services Choreography (WSCI) specification, as is BEA, which is in both camps. And the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has a group at work on a Web services choreography/orchestration specification that is similar to BPEL4WS. Microsoft attended the first face-to-face meeting of the W3C choreography working group, which was held at Oracle headquarters, but the company did not pursue it any further.
“Its a shame IBM and Microsoft cant learn to join existing activities,” said one industry observer who asked not to be identified. “This will be the second time in a short period where they have chosen to launch a duplicate effort rather than work with the established standardization activity. They tried to undermine WS-Reliability, and now they are trying to undermine the W3C choreography working group.”
“The submission of BPEL to OASIS is a great step for BPEL as well as Web services in general,” said Ronald Schmelzer, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, a Cambridge, Mass., market research firm. “BPEL is a key specification aimed at providing a mechanism by which Web services can be orchestrated into business processes, which can then be exchanged and choreographed with external processes. Business process is a critical aspect of adoption of Web services and especially service-oriented architectures since business processes are how companies define their business requirements that must then be implemented with Web services. Without process, all you have is a jumble of Web services. Specifications like BPEL bring order to the chaos by specifying a logical flow by which Web services can be orchestrated to meet defined business requirements.”
Indeed, Schmelzer said, the competing standards issue is a nuisance.
“Now that BPEL is part of OASIS, we think vendors are going to flock to adopt the specification, which will benefit the industry as a whole,” Schmelzer said. “The only issue is that this calls into question what the W3C has in mind for their WS choreography working group. They will have to find a way to interact with the OASIS group or find themselves forcing companies not only to choose specifications, but also a standards organization to align themselves with.”
“The existence of multiple specifications is a clear indication that a gap exists in the market and that vendors must work to fill it,” said Ismael Ghalmi, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Intalio Inc., in San Mateo, Calif. “We believe that it is in the best interest of the industry to unite behind standards. The formation of the OASIS technical committee and the submission of the BPEL specification to a standards body is a move in that direction.”
Last month, IBM, Microsoft, BEA and Tibco Software Inc. announced two Web services reliability specifications that compete with a specification that already existed and was developed and sponsored by Sun, Oracle, Iona Technologies Inc., webMethods Inc. and several other companies.
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