New specification just a start for reliable Web services messaging



On Jan. 9, a group of IT vendors – including Fujitsu, Hitachi, NEC, Oracle, Sonic Software and Sun Microsystems – announced the publication of a working draft of the Web Services Reliability (WS-Reliability) specification. Based on e-business XML (ebXML), WS-Reliability is a specification for open, dependable Web services messaging, including guaranteed delivery, duplicate message elimination and message ordering.

First Take

The name WS-Reliability implies that this specification will make Web services reliable. In reality, the specification deals less with the overall reliability of Web services than with “Web services reliable message delivery” – something most users take for granted and would be surprised to know is not available already for Web services communications. The WS-Reliability specification is the first publicized break in the area of message interoperability. Its sponsors named it to sound like the emerging “WS” family (such as WS-Security and WS-Transactions, proposed earlier by Microsoft and IBM); however, WS-Reliability is not integrated with these standards. Instead, WS-Reliability stems from work completed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) to develop ebXML, a standard which has obtained some traction and vendor support. WS-Reliability marks the beginning of the potential reuse of pieces of ebXML in Web services. The specification aims to expand ebXML standards to increase the reliability of Web services and spur their wider use.

The success of WS-Reliability will depend in part on the reaction of IBM and Microsoft, which have not participated in this effort thus far. Both are crucial to the success of any Web services specification. Gartner believes that IBM and Microsoft also are working on their own Web services messaging specification. The six vendors in this consortium have moved faster than IBM and Microsoft to publicize their work, perhaps hoping to offset some of the standards-dictating power that IBM and Microsoft have enjoyed with other Web services specifications. Vendors and enterprises that have already adopted ebXML will find it natural to endorse WS-Reliability – thus hindering widespread acceptance of any hypothetical alternative proposal from IBM and Microsoft. As Gartner forecast, Web services standards have begun fragmenting.

Enterprises should limit their technology investments to tactical projects that provide immediate benefits to help buy some time until Web services standards are settled. The new specification remains incomplete, even with respect to messaging: It describes reliable asynchronous delivery but does not address many other issues such as publish-and-subscribe. WS-Reliability fires only a first small shot in the impending battle for messaging standards.

Analytical Sources: David Smith, Roy Schulte and Massimo Pezzini, Gartner Research

Recommended Reading and Related Research

“Major Vendors Influence Web Services Technology” – A Gartner Magic Quadrant assesses the degree to which the leading software vendors influence the development of Web services. By David Smith

“Java Message Service: A Standard That Works” – The Java Message Service specification is the application programming interface of choice for most new Java applications that use message-oriented middleware. By Roy Schulte

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