Hello from WS-CAF

Welcome to my new blog!
I’d like to thank Steve Vinoski for helping to set this up for us. If you haven’t read his blog, I highly recommend it.
I’m writing this from the face to face meeting of the OASIS Web Services Composite Application Framework (WS-CAF) technical committee, hosted by Attachmate in Paris.
Paris is cold and rainy, with a chance of snow. Which is unfortunate, since my mother is with me. I promised to bring her to Europe some time, and because I know she likes Paris, I thought it would be a good idea. Oh well, I’m sure we’ll have a good time, even if it is a bit cold to be out walking around.
I got here a little late because I gave a presentation about WS-CAF at Edge East on Tuesday in Boston. I’ll post the presentation to the site as soon as I can figure out how to do it ;-). About 25 people attended, and they seemed pretty interested.
WS-CAF is a standardization effort focused on what I consider to be one of the last major unresolved areas for Web services – transactions support. There have been several attempts so far, but nothing has yet really cracked the problem.
Just after SOAP 1.0 came out, Don Box and I tried to map the Transaction Internet Protocol (TIP) to SOAP, but quickly discovered we had bigger problems than just putting the two specs together – namely the lack of persistent sessions in HTTP. TIP, like any other current distributed transaction protocol, depends upon persistent sessions. This is one of the reasons you often here statements like “two-phase commit doesn’t work well for Web services.”
Also, a Web service can interface to any technology – application servers, messaging engines, packaged applications, databases, scripts, etc. – and these technologies often have widely disparate transaction models and protocols.
I think we finally may have the basis for the solution to both problems.
In WS-CAF is the WS-Context spec solves the former problem, and the Business Process (BP) transaction model in the WS-Transaction Management spec solves the latter.
We’ve worked hard to ensure that WS-CAF is a compatible superset of WS-T, WS-C, and WS-BA released by Microsoft, IBM, and BEA, since those are important specifications, too.
During an interview at the Edge East show, Jeremy Geelan said he noticed some passion in my voice when I talked about standards.
It’s true – I’ve been working on various software standards for longer than I like to think about – fifteen years or so – and I would still really like to see the software industry standardized, as other industries such as manufacturing and shipping have, so we can all realize the benefit of “mass produced” software. More later…


2 responses to “Hello from WS-CAF

  1. Ivan Casanova

    Can you comment on what the process to standardization is like and where WS-CAF is in the process.
    We see many standards in the market place. I dont fully understand what happens as these initiatives move forward.

  2. Eric Newcomer

    If anyone had the magic formula for making a standard, he or she would be rich overnight.
    Ultimately the only standard that matters is one that’s adopted by the marketplace.
    But predicting what the market will adopt, and how that happens, is something that drives people crazy in any industry. The movie industry is famous for high priced bombs and low priced smashes.
    One big factor for software standards is the number of companies that adopt a particular specification, and the market influence of those companies. Another important factor is the suitability of the technical solution in the spec for its target market — so we have market influence and technical suitability as major factors.
    In Web services specifications are typically written by a small group of companies, then published, and finally submitted to a standards body. Along the way they are evaluated for technical suitability in the targeted problem space.
    In the case of WS-CAF, the effort started with a small group of companies getting together to create the original specifications. This was IONA, Arjuna, Fujitsu Software, Oracle, and Sun. The companies published the specifications and then submitted them to OASIS, where they are being progressed toward OASIS standards in the WS-CAF Technical Committee.
    The WS-CAF TC is progressing the specifications toward committee standard status on a schedule that targets completion by the end of 2004.