Bandwidth Is Still Not Free

Opinion: W3C recommendations pave way for efficient, resilient, more secure Web services.

Today marks the entry deadline—really, we mean it—for eWEEKs Fifth Annual Excellence Awards. Full information is available at

As we prepare for the annual flood of last-minute entries, I find that eWEEK newshound Darryl Taft has pretty much written the rest of this column for me with his coverage of last weeks announcements of three new recommendations from the World Wide Web Consortium. The W3Cs XOP (XML-binary Optimized Packaging) offers developers a standard approach to incorporating binary data in XML documents with minimal storage and bandwidth requirements; W3Cs MTOM (Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism) builds on XOP to make contracts between successive SOAP nodes.

Interestingly, the announcement of the MTOM recommendation never even uses the word "security," but several observers have called attention to MTOMs support for SOAP attachments protected by WS-Security—a valuable synergy missing from earlier SOAP attachment models.

Rounding out the recommendations trio, the RRSHB (Resource Representation SOAP Header Block) invites developers to give their applications more flexibility in dealing with intermittent or variable-rate connections by making it possible for a SOAP message to include a local copy of a Web-based resource. This can speed initial processing, or stand in for the actual remote resource if a connection is inconvenient or infeasible at the time that resource access is desired.

My own initial reaction to the XOP announcement was a cynical snarl of "Oh, fine, a standards-based way to wrap proprietary data formats in the Web services flag." A counterargument from BEA Systems Senior Principal Technologist and active blogger Mark Nottingham observes that anyone who wanted to do that could do it already, so that the net benefit is noteworthy and the net harm insignificant.

Overall, its nice to see such a comprehensive suite of Web services refinements that actually treat bandwidth as something worth making an effort to conserve. Massive backplane expansion will likely be driven by the demands of grid computing, but personal users at the end of bandwidth-limited wireless links of variable quality will still be the more likely drivers for much of Web services volume.

Continued refinement in packaging data streams will expand the usefulness of Web services in many environments.

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