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Companies Seek to Marry Grid, Web Services

A major grid computing consortium and a cadre of leading technology companies outlined new specifications that will marry the concepts of grid computing and Web services to improve business processes on the Web. But the specs appear to overlap with the work Microsoft, BEA, and others presented earlier this month in their WS-Eventing schema.

The Globus Alliance, along with Akamai , HP , IBM , Sonic Software and TIBCO proposed the WS-Notification and WS-Resource Framework specs as a framework for business applications, grid resources and systems management to work in harmony at the GLOBUSWORLD conference in San Francisco Tuesday.

Web services allow applications on different computers to communicate with one another while grid computing mines unused resources from many computers in a network to solve problems too complex for one machine.

Fusing both is attractive because it could help customers lower costs and provide greater integration of disparate software products across the enterprise, said Karla Norsworthy, director of Dynamic e-Business Technologies, IBM.

Norsworthy told internetnews.com WS-Notification and the WS-Resource Framework will provide a publication and subscription messaging model and the ability to model resources, ranging from servers to business agreements and contracts, for Web services.

Access to these resources, she said, allow "just in time" procurement with many suppliers, systems outage detection and recovery and grid-based workload balancing. For example, WS-Notification can automatically alert suppliers that they need to restock merchandise once inventory decreases. It can also be set up so that only the supplier with the best bid fills the order.

In basic respects, this idea mirrors that of WS-Eventing, a specification cooked up by Microsoft, BEA and TIBCO that describes the communication of events in a Web services architecture.

Because IBM usually works with Microsoft and BEA on Web services standards, Norsworthy was asked at the time why they chose not to participate. Norsworthy told internetnews.com that Big Blue was doing its own work in this space and declined to join the WS-Eventing effort because they had different priorities.

While such separation of Web services specifications is normally fodder for speculation about catastrophic schisms that could threaten to sunder the software community, Norsworthy Tuesday expressed confidence that the two specs would someday converge, and noted that TIBCO's presence on both specs is a good harbinger of this potential.

Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst with XML and Web services research firm ZapThink, said the announcement answers the questions he originally had about why IBM declined to participate in a spec that could help them spread their Web services gospel and ultimately improve their WebSphere software platform, which is so vital to the Armonk, N.Y. company's success.

"It was conspicuous that IBM was absent from that announcement, and now we know why -- IBM was working on their own spec, WS-Notifications," Schmelzer told internentnews.com. "The difference between the two specs is the intended focus and technology. IBM found that their priorities were for allowing brokers to be present between the event publisher and subscriber, and in addition to support management of the notifications and end points.

Also, IBM wanted to support their Grid initiatives that required notifications to make it work. Simply put, these were not priorities for the Microsoft, et. al. team, and as a result, IBM decided to come out with their own spec focusing on these priorities."

Meanwhile, the WS-Resource Framework, authored by The Globus Alliance, HP and IBM, describes how to utilize the related specifications to model the resources in the context of Web services.

While the benefits of WS-Notifications and the WS-Resource framework are clear, these new specifications should greatly benefit efforts in the grid computing sector: the specs provide a foundation for the Open Grid Services Architecture proposed by Globus.

Grid infrastructures and applications can now be built using Web services specifications with the guidance of WS-Resource Framework and WS-Notification. This will improve the ability to access computing resources on demand over the Internet.