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RealTime IT News

IT Vendors Publish Web Services Messaging Spec

A cadre of leading IT vendors working to promote Web services interoperability has published a Web Services Reliability (WS-Reliability) specification to make Internet messaging more reliable.

The working draft, co-authored by Fujitsu, Hitachi, NEC, Oracle, Sonic Software and Sun Microsystems, calls for WS-Reliability to be an open spec that guarantees message ordering, message delivery and the removal of duplicate messages.

To make this effective, the firms said the reliability features are based on extensions to the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) , as opposed to being tied to the underlying transport protocol. The specification will allow a variety of systems to interoperate reliably in a platform- and vendor-neutral manner. XML and Web services research firm ZapThink said reliability, along with process definition and execution, makes up the third critical roadblock to Web Services adoption after security and management.

When further work is completed, the firms plan to submit WS-Reliability to a standards body, such as OASIS or the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), on a royalty-free basis.

"The WS-Reliability specification will provide the framework to help make Web services a truly enterprise-capable standard for integration within and between companies," said Gordon Van Huizen, vice president of product management for Sonic Software. "Reliable e-business communications has been Sonic's core business for years and we share a deep commitment to addressing the challenges of integration across mission critical deployments in a standards-based way."

Web services polarization?
The WS-Reliability progress comes on the heels of the December 18 announcement by Microsoft, IBM and others to publish a slew of Web services specifications to help businesses share information securely. Conspicuously, players with keen interests in Web services, such as Sun and Oracle, were absent from that announcement. Just as curious, said analysts, is Microsoft's and IBM's lack of involvement with WS-Reliability, given the weight they have thrown behind the sector.

"It's interesting that there are no common members between today's announcement and the WS-Policy/Trust/SecureConversation announcement last month [Sonic, Hitachi, Fujitsu, NEC, Oracle and Sun for today's announcement, and IBM, Microsoft, Verisign, BEA, SAP, and RSA Security for the December announcement]," said ZapThink Senior Analyst Jason Bloomberg. "This divergence may indicate a continuation of some of the infighting that has gone on between these groups, but then again, it may turn out that everybody is willing to cooperate on this one. In the grand scheme of things, WS-Reliability doesn't present much of a threat to anyone, so ZapThink predicts that the IBM/Microsoft group is likely to accept this specification with little or no significant changes requested."

Bob Sutor, Director of Web Services Technology at IBM, which is pushing ebXML as the premier Web services platform, said the new spec appears to heavily influenced by the ebXML work that IBM co-authored several years ago, but did not commit to WS-Reliability wholesale.

"We hope that the WS-Reliability spec represents an attempt to further converge ebXML into the increasingly dominant industry web services effort," Sutor said.

Sutor said IBM eventually expects to work with a open standards organization to ensure that web services reliable messaging is as functional and reliable as necessary.

ZapThink Senior Analyst Ron Schmelzer anticipates Microsoft and IBM may get involved once WS-Reliability makes its way to OASIS.

"The guts of WS-Reliability are quite simple: they are adding a bunch of headers to the SOAP envelope to deal with those issues of reliability. So, this means that the tools and app servers along the way have to be able to understand those headers. Without IBM, Microsoft, BEA agreeing to use the spec, it will be hard to "guarantee" reliability with such a critical core of vendors missing. Let's hope that when it does make its way to the OASIS [or if...] then those vendors jump on board."

After all of that, Schmelzer said it's not clear how or whether or not WS-Reliability will mesh with a number of other standards that address reliability, including SOAP 1.2 BPEL4WS, WSCI, BPML, BTP, and many of ebXML's specs.

"The WS-Reliability group will have to work in the context of these standards to make sure it is offering something complimentary and not competitive," Schmelzer said.