Formal BPEL standard set for approval


Without further adieu, an industry-wide specification for orchestrating Web services in business processes was formally adopted by OASIS earlier this month, nearly five years after the proposal first debuted.

Voting on WS-BPEL (Web Services Business Process Execution Language) 2.0, or BPEL, by OASIS members concludes late last month and the organization expects it to be formally approved.

BPEL is an XML language that uses Web services to describe services interactions, said John Evdemon, co-chairman of the BPEL technical committee at OASIS and a member of the architecture strategy team at Microsoft. It is considered crucial to SOA and functions with the WS-* (pronounced as “ws star”) Web services standards.

“If you think about the overall goals of SOA, the ability to compose the services into [a] business process that solves a real business problem is critical, and that’s what BPEL gives us,” said Diane Jordan, program director for software standards at IBM and also a co-chairperson of the BPEL technical committee at OASIS.

BPEL can enable services to be sequenced or run in parallel; Web services can be used in a business flow. Some technology vendors that have implemented the 1.1 specification in their products are likely to incorporate the 2.0 version. Users also can employ business processes with BPEL, make them part of their SOA, and feel more confident about a formally adopted version of BPEL, Jordan said.

BPEL was first published in August 2002 by a list of vendors that included BEA Systems, IBM and Microsoft. Since then, vendors such as Oracle have endorsed it as well.

BPEL was submitted for consideration by OASIS in May 2003. A 1.1 version of the specification has been in use but was never formally adopted by the organization as an OASIS standard.

“The language is a fairly complex thing to produce,” Jordan said in explaining why it has taken this long to get a ratification-worthy version of BPEL. Potential problems with the specification have had to be addressed and that has taken a long time, she said.

“BPEL is really creating a new capability for Web services to be orchestrated,” Jordan said.

Version 2.0 of BPEL features improvements in many areas. Activity types, which are akin to constructs that describe process flows, have improved with the addition of if-then-else statements.

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