WS-I eyes asynchronous Web services

Looking to boost Web services deployments in business-to-business commerce, the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) last week took steps toward providing how-to documents for asynchronous Web services.

Based on recent Web services specifications for addressing, reliable messaging, and secure conversation, the technology backed by WS-I also will be useful in SOA, according to IBM and WS-I. It also is applicable to transactions in health care and insurance, according to IBM and WS-I.

"You just need to know that the transaction got to its destination, that it was received properly; and that's what reliability is all about," said Tom Glover, IBM program director for Business Standards Growth and former president of WS-I.

WS-I approved two charters that will incorporate technologies from the Reliable Asynchronous Messaging Profile (RAMP) developed by IBM with Daimler, Ford, General Motors, and others, IBM said. WS-I profiles feature blueprints for deploying Web services and attempts to save users from having to navigate through the plethora of Web services standards proposals on their own.

Asynchronous transactions have been a shortcoming of Web services thus far. Companies typically have had to fashion custom interfaces to deal with suppliers, but standardized interfaces through Web services would reduce expenses, IBM said.

To this end, RAMP adds the WS-Addressing, WS-ReliableMessaging, and WS-Secure Conversation specifications to both the WS-I Basic Profile and a new profile called Reliable Secure Profile. Two working groups were formed this week to work on the project.

When WS-I was formed four years ago, the standards for asynchronous messaging via Web services were not mature enough, Glover said. "We knew it was an issue," he said.

IBM over the past 18 months has put out two drafts of RAMP, Glover said. WS-I acted on RAMP at its meeting in Salt Lake City this week.

Specifically, WSI re-chartered the WS-I Basic Profile Working Group to cover asynchronous messaging in the planned 1.2 version of Basic Profile. This coverage will be accomplished by supporting WS-Addressing, which is in RAMP, as well as supporting SOAP MTOM (Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism) and XOP (XML-binary Optimized Packaging). These are not part of RAMP but are being added in by WS-I consensus. The two specifications support attachments, enabling Web services to better handle large files.

Also planned is the Reliable Secure Profile 1.0, which is comprised of WS-ReliableMessaging and WS-Secure Conversation. This work will be done by the new Reliable Secure Profile Working Group.

Drafts of Basic Profile 1.2 and RSP 1.0 are expected later this year, with final proposals anticipated in 2007. Companies would support these profiles in developer tools and middleware, such as in IBM's WebSphere and Rational products.

SOA factors into WS-I's work, Glover said. "If you look at SOA, SOA is an architecture and it basically helps you to flexibly integrate services," he said.

"In most cases, those services are Web services, and if you want to make your Web services so that that they can be easily, quickly, cheaply integrated in an SOA-style application, you make them so that they conform with profiles," Glover said.

An industry analyst applauded WS-I's work.

"ZapThink has been touting asynchronous messaging as a fundamental tenet of SOA for five years now, so it's about time that RAMP is now recognized as being central to the interoperability value proposition of SOA," said Jason Bloomberg, ZapThink senior analyst, in an e-mail. "We applaud WS-I and the members who worked on this, and expect it to help advance the adoption of SOA."

WS-I also is forming a new workgroup to deal with changes to the bylaws, such as accommodating abstentions. Additionally, the organization is planning Basic Profile 2.0, based on SOAP 1.2 and MTOM/XOP.

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