Industry standards marching forward

Corporate executives are keeping a sharp eye on new Web services standards and management specifications.

“The approach to Web services is now focused on interactions between (Web) services instead of interfaces between systems,” said Steve Mori, director of IT enterprise architecture for Autodesk Inc.

Early adopters say XML, Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Web Services Description Language have evolved into solid standards for integration.

The trick now is to take Web services components built with those standards and put them together into a workflow for business processes across networks.

To realize the goal, an entire generation of protocols has to be developed, and that work is ongoing within standards bodies such as the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

A key protocol is WS-Security, which guarantees a secure way to send messages between two points. IBM and Microsoft developed the protocol before it was turned over to OASIS earlier this year. The specification, which last month was renamed WS-Security: SOAP Message Security, is expected to be finalized.

The committee has developed a number of security profiles that explain how WS-Security works in conjunction with security tokens. Last month, the group added a Minimalist Profile, designed to fit WS-Security into mobile devices.

IBM and Microsoft also have developed a road map for six additional specifications that build on WS-Security, although none have been turned over to a standards body. Those specifications include WS-Policy, which details what kind of security is needed to access a Web service, and WS-Secure Conversation, which ensures all messages are part of the same conversation and delivered in the right order.

Security, however, is just one building block for a Web services infrastructure now being called a service oriented architecture (SOA). A SOA consists of application components that live as services on the network and can be assembled together in infinite combinations.

To build a SOA, Web services need a process workflow specification that describes how a series of Web services are linked together to support a business process. Work is under way on two specifications.

The W3C is working on Web Services Choreography Interface (WSCI) and OASIS on the Web Services Business Process Execution Language (WSBPEL). Another controversial specification that is not nearly resolved is reliable messaging, which is designed to guarantee delivery of messages between applications.

OASIS in March chartered the Web Services Reliable Messaging technical committee. Two weeks later, IBM and Microsoft each published a similar specification called WS-Reliable Messaging. The two, however, are not working together.

The fourth area of standards development is management, which is being worked on at OASIS by the Web Services Distributed Management (WSDM) technical committee.