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IBM, Microsoft and BEA Deliver Specifications for Business Transactions and Process Automation Within and Between Companies
IBM, Microsoft and BEA Deliver Specifications for Business Transactions and Process Automation Within and Between Companies

(August 9, 2002) - Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp., and BEA Systems, Inc. have published specifications to collectively describe how to reliably define, create, and connect multiple business processes in a Web services environment. The three specifications are designed to help organizations coordinate business processes and transactions within the enterprise, and with partners and customers across heterogeneous systems and within the enterprise. The new specifications address transacted communications of Web services (WS-Coordination, WS-Transaction) and define a new language to describe business processes (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services, or BPEL4WS).

Explaining the significance of this announcement, John Kiger, director of Web Services Marketing for BEA, said, "These new specifications offer solutions to important technical problems that must be addressed to realize the full potential of Web services and expand the scope of business problems to which Web services can be applied. Among the most significant advantages of these specifications is the convergence of the cumulative experience and knowledge of BEA, IBM and Microsoft represented in these specifications, as well as the indirect contributions of various partners that have worked with one or more of us in the past on related technologies. We believe this will act as a catalyst to help drive faster convergence across the industry to a single set of standards for the automation of business processes and transactions for Web services."

(In a personal aside on his Website, Joshua Allen, program manager, Microsoft, commented: "The new name - BPEL4WS - is really horrible; no matter how you pronounce it, it has minimum 5 syllables. But at least it is guaranteed to see some widespread deployment, since it is so close to what Biztalk, WebSphere, and WebLogic are already shipping.")

A business process describes the flow of tasks, the order in which they need to be performed, the type of data shared and how other partners are involved. BPEL4WS allows companies to describe business processes that include multiple Web services and standardize message exchange internally and between partners. WS-Coordination and WS-Transaction provide companies with a reliable and durable way of handling multiple Web services interactions, regardless of the underlying computing infrastructure. In addition, they outline how partners can interact with a collection of Web services and coordinate the outcome of those corresponding activities.

For example, a travel agency that exposes its business travel processes - such as hotel, flight, or car rental reservation applications - as Web services can integrate and transact with the business travel processes of its customers and partners. Using BPEL4WS, WS-Coordination, and WS-Transaction, the travel agency's customer could electronically submit a travel itinerary to an agent; the agent's system can automatically procure the appropriate airline, hotel, and car reservations from partners to match the customer request; and the system can then send confirmation of all reservations back to the customer once the itinerary processing is complete. If one of the applications fails, tasks that have already been completed can be automatically undone.

WS-Coordination provides developers with a way to manage the operations related to a business activity. A business process may involve a number of Web services working together to provide a common solution. Each service needs to be able to coordinate its activities with those of the other services for the process to succeed. Coordination involves the sequencing of operations in a process to reach an agreement on the overall outcome of the business process.

WS-Coordination provides the structure under which coordination can take place. The specification supplies standard mechanisms to create and register with transaction protocols that coordinate the execution of distributed operations in a Web services environment.

WS-Transaction allows businesses to monitor the success or failure of each specific, coordinated activity in a business process. It provides businesses with a flexible transaction protocol to help enable consistent and reliable operations across distributed organizations in a Web services environment. The specification also allows the business process to react to faults detected during execution.

WS-Transaction provides for short- and long-running transactions in which resources cannot be locked for the duration of the business process. In both cases, WS-Transaction takes advantage of the structure WS-Coordination provides to enable all participating Web services to end the business process with a shared understanding of its outcome.

BPEL4WS is an XML-based flow language that defines how business processes interact. It allows companies to describe complex business processes that can span multiple companies, such as order processing and claims handling. These business processes can use partner-provided Web services, and can also be offered as Web services business process functions internally or to partners in a reliable and dependable way.

In addition, BPEL4WS helps enable business processes to interoperate within and between companies that use different underlying technologies. This will help companies execute the same business processes in the systems of other vendors, and facilitate message exchange internally and between partners.

BPEL4WS replaces the existing IBM WSFL and Microsoft® XLANG efforts by combining and extending the functions of these previous foundation technologies.

Once the business process and the connections with customers, partners and internal entities are defined using BPEL4WS, the next step is to coordinate the activities within a business process, in order and at the right time for completion. WS-Coordination and WS-Transaction complement BPEL4WS by providing a way for companies to coordinate and integrate a number of distinct Web services and business processes, consistently and reliably, across a variety of implementation environments to ensure the right outcome.

BEA's John Kiger added, "BEA has a long track record of technology leadership, a mantle that has been earned in part because of our commitment to providing developers early access to new technologies and emerging standards, and delivering these in a production-ready platform that enables our customers to realize the benefits of new technologies as early as possible. As these specifications become the basis for future industry standards, early access will be provided for developers and supported in future versions of BEA WebLogic."

For more information, visit the following sites:

  • Microsoft: http://msdn.microsoft.com/webservices/

  • IBM: http://www.ibm.com/webservices/

  • BEA: http://dev2dev.bea.com/techtrack/standards.jsp
    About SOA News Desk
    SOA World Magazine News Desk trawls the world of distributed computing and SOA-related developments for the latest word on technologies, standards, products, and services and brings key information to you in a timely and convenient summary form.

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