WS-I tackles Web services attachments

The Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) on Tuesday is releasing three profiles intended to make it easier to send attachments using Web services technologies.

The organization is publishing is Basic Profile 1.1, Attachments Profile 1.0, and Simple SOAP Binding Profile 1.0 as “Final Material,” a designation that indicates these profiles have been formally approved by WS-I. Interoperability issues pertinent to Web services attachments are addressed by the profiles, which are available for download at

Developers can use the profiles as a mechanism for building attachment-enabled applications that can interoperate, according to WS-I, which defines its profiles as sets of Web services specifications that work together to support specific types of solutions.

“Essentially, what this represents is the culmination of work we’ve done on incorporating support for SOAP Messages with Attachments [SwA] into the original Basic Profile 1.0,” said Chris Ferris, chairman of the WS-I Basic Profile Working Group and a senior technical staff member at IBM. SwA defines a MIME-related structure for packaging attachments with SOAP messages and is classified as a World Wide Web Consortium note.

SwA helps send a graphical image, such as MPEG or JPEG file or medical image, via Web services, Ferris said. “These things can be very large and their content is binary. It’s not XML,” he said.

One audience for WS-I profiles is vendors of tools and platforms, who would deliver product conforming to the profiles, Ferris said. IBM Corp., for its part, plans on delivering functionality conformant to the three profiles with the planned WebSphere 6 product release, said Ferris, adding he did not know when Version 6 would be available.

Releasing the new profiles enables Web services that use attachments to be tested for compliance with a composition of Basic Profile 1.1 and Attachments Profile 1.0. Web services not using attachments can be tested for conformance with a composition of Basic Profile 1.1 and Simple SOAP Binding Profile 1.0. Conforming to both Basic Profile 1.1 and Simple SOAP Binding Profile 1.0 is equivalent to conformance to Basic Profile 1.0 plus published errata, said WS-I.

The new profiles reveal that Web services is growing up and that interoperability for attachments requires standard interfaces, said Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC.

“Many firms have reported that companies have been hesitant to implement Web Services and SOAs on a widespread basis until and unless they see increasing adoption by their customers, partners, and software vendors,” Schmelzer said. “Increasingly this is now the case. With the finalization of the first of the WS-I profiles, a potential stumbling block — that of standards convergence — has been removed.”

“The second story has to do with the attachments part of the story. Companies realize that in order to gain the benefits of interoperability, proprietary binary protocols and formats simply won’t cut it. That’s the whole point of XML and Web services -— standardizing the interfaces between systems and companies,” Schmelzer said. “However, the big downside here is that XML-based Web services are very inefficient. As such, that’s why we’re seeing the emergence of companies like DataPower (Technology Inc.) that are focusing on the performance angle of Web services and SOAs, in effect reducing the risk of implementing Web services.”

Basic Profile 1.1, the follow-up to Basic Profile 1.0, describes how core Web services specifications should be used to develop interoperable Web services. Specific to this document is a set of non-proprietary Web services specifications and clarifications, refinements, interpretations, and amplifications to boost interoperability.

Version 1.1 features a re-architecting of the profile to relocate binding-specific envelope serialization requirements to its own profile, identified as the Simple SOAP Binding Profile 1.0. The new structure enables Basic Profile 1.1 to easily compose with any profile that specifies envelope serialization, including Simple SOAP Binding Profile 1.0 and the Attachments Profile 1.0, WS-I said.

Simple SOAP Binding Profile 1.0 defines an XML structure for transmitting messages, called the envelope. This profile mandates the use of that structure and places constraints on its use. The binding profile is derived from Basic Profile 1.0 requirements related to the serialization of the envelope and its representation in the message. Additionally, the profile pertains to the ability to compose bindings without having them clash with one another.

Attachments Profile 1.0 complements Basic Profile 1.1 to add support for conveying interoperable SwA attachments with SOAP messages. WS-I currently is working to develop sample applications and testing tools for use with the Basic Profile 1.1, Attachments Profile 1.0, and Simple SOAP Binding Profile 1.0.

WS-I features vendors such as IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., and Sun Microsystems Inc. and is focused on boosting interoperability among Web services implementations. The organization also recently chartered a new working group called the XML Schema Work Plan Working Group to focus on interoperability issues related to the use of XML Schema as the means by which application data is defined.

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