March 28, 2006 5:04 AM PST

Group eyes standard Web services messaging

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A standards organization this week will consider a proposal to unify methods for reliably sending data between computers, a step backers say would accelerate use of Web services standards.

At a plenary meeting starting Tuesday in Salt Lake City, members of the Web Services Interoperabilty Organization, known as WS-I, will vote on a technical submission called Reliable Asynchronous Messaging Profile, or RAMP.

Most standards bodies publish technical specifications that are then voted in as industry standards. The WS-I, by contrast, creates "profiles," which are recommendations for how corporate customers and software vendors can best use existing Web services standards, a set of protocols for sharing information with disparate systems.

IBM created the RAMP proposal in conjunction with Ford Motor and General Motors, according to Bob Sutor, IBM's vice president of standards and open source.

The guidelines would benefit many corporate customers, enabling companies to focus on industry-specific matters, such as standardized formats for business documents, rather than on communication protocols, Sutor said. "I was surprised to find (that corporations) spend so much time talking about messaging protocols."

Sutor said standards-based reliable messaging software "has reached a point where it's something customers should use," and a profile from the WS-I will accelerate the overall adoption of Web services-based software.

Reliable messaging software can ensure, for example, that a purchase order sent out by one company's billing system can be "read" by a business partner's order management application. The RAMP profile covers multistep transactions that may take several days to complete. Today, most messaging systems are proprietary and can't work easily with other messaging products.

Members of WS-I, which includes software vendors and corporate customers, will vote on the proposal this week. If accepted, a working group would create a reliable-messaging profile based on the proposal, said Tom Glover, the chairman of the WS-I and an IBM executive.

The WS-I has already created profiles on how to share data between applications using basic interoperabilty Web services protocols such as Simple Object Access Protcol. It has also created a security profile.

Glover conceded that there were some complex "issues" that needed to get sorted out for the RAMP proposal to become the basis for another profile.

In particular, two overlapping reliable-messaging specifications have pitted competing vendors against each other.

Still, Glover said he is "hopeful" that the WS-I will take on the work of making a messaging profile using RAMP.

ZapThink analyst Ron Schmelzer agreed that getting agreement among different vendors to create an agreed-upon standard for reliable messaging will be difficult. But it will be necessary to expand the use of Web services-based software broadly, he said.

He recommended that members of the WS-I act very transparently in how they arrive at the profile, which will be useful to customers.

"I don't think people care as much about the profile as they care about the process of how they got to the profile," Schmelzer said. "As a customer, I can make decisions based on what they're doing, and I can see the direction they're going in."

Separately, Glover said the WS-I board this week will solicit feedback on what other technical areas the group should take up. Some obvious possibilities are updating its profiles for the latest versions of the Simple Object Access Protocol, or SOAP, standard and taking on disparate federated-identity specifications.

See more CNET content tagged:
Web Services Interoperability Organization, messaging, Web service, corporate customer, order management

 

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