Sunday, February 13, 2005

Web Services Coordination Framework on its way

Last week we had the second face-to-face WS-CAF meeting to concentrate pretty much soley on the Web Services Coordination Framework (WS-CF). The first was in Dublin last November, where we made some fairly significant modifications to the specification and in this meeting we went through the 76 issues, closing many of them down. Because WS-CF builds on WS-Context the core concept that we've developed is the activity group: such a group is created when a context of a specific type (e.g., a coordination context) is begun via the Context Service. Participants can then register with that group via the endpoint reference (EPR) that is embedded in the WS-CF augmented WS-Context structure.

Because WS-CF is meant to be a low-level, generic coordination infrastructure, there's not a lot we can do at this level in terms of specific coordination protocol, i.e., coordinator-to-participant and participant-to-coordinator interactions. (Actually, we did a lot more in our initial submission to OASIS than we do now, but the TC has decided to remove some of that stuff and punt it to the higher level users/specifications.) So, apart from adding and removing participants, and handling recovery (yes, believe it or not, things do fail in the Web) of both coordinator and participants, that's pretty much WS-CF in a nutshell.

You might ask what's the difference between WS-CF and the IBM, Microsoft, BEA WS-Coordination specification? If you'd asked that question a couple of years ago (when we first released them) as many analysts did, the answer would have taken a couple of pages to describe. Now it's a lot simpler, but would still take a page, so I'll mention only two differences: WS-CF builds on WS-Context, so in our opinion fits into the Web Services architecture more naturally; it also handles basic endpoint recovery at the level that makes sense rather than making everything a users responsibility to figure out.

Anyway, I think that everyone who attended the meeting thought it went very well. Certainly I came away from it last week happy that we'd made a lot more progress than I'd hoped for. With any luck we should have WS-CF finished and almost at Committee Draft by April (we have to produce a Primer, which is probably the most work between now and then) and then we can move on to transactions, which is something I'm looking forward to.

Before I forget though, thanks go to CodeWorks for sponsoring the meeting. We've been working with these guys for a couple of months on helping to educate companies in our region on the benefits of Web Services and their remit is to publicise Web Services and the region as widely as possible. I think this was a good opportunity for them (and us) to get that point across to companies who attended the face-to-face and I'm confident that there'll be some tangible benefit to CodeWorks and the region as a result.

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