Transactions Workshop

It was great to see a lot of old friends and former colleagues at the WS-Transaction Feedback Workshop last week. The transaction community is pretty small, and after having worked in and around it for more than 20 years, I saw a lot of familiar faces.
Some people are pretty cynical about these privately-sponsored workshops because they are not hosted by an independent industry consortium such as W3C or OASIS. The major complaint is that the copyright on the specifications remains under the control of the authors, and that any feedback provided also becomes the property of the authors. Another frequent complaint is that the group of authors is closed and self-selected.
But I take a more half-full glass view of these things. Any opportunity for collaboration is welcome, and important to take advantage of. And I’d that say the authors were very open to feedback, and seemed genuinely interested in the reactions of those present. I’m also sure that the specifications will be improved as a result of the feedback.
I was glad to be able to represent the WS-CAF TC and formally propose convergence between the WS-CAF set of specifications and the WS-AT, WS-BA, and WS-C specifications. I think that convergence would be really helpful to the industry, first of all, and I also think that the WS-CAF suite has some things to offer the WS-Transactions suite.
In particular, WS-CAF separates out context management as a generic function, so it can be applied not just to manage transactional context, but also to manage other types of context that need managing in a Web services environment. Many items in the Web services execution environment need managing besides transaction IDs, including security IDs, process IDs, device and file IDs, session IDs, and so on.
WS-CAF also defines a transaction model specifically for use in business process flows or Web service orchestrations. This model expands upon the idea of a transaction coordinator to help provide interoperability across transaction models (i.e. synchronous and asynchronous) and bridge recovery mechanisms, taking into account compensation, rollback, rollforward, and even human intervention as valid means to help obtain a consistent outcome on the results of a long running business process across arbitrary execution environments.
The remainder of the specifications could easily be merged, since they are technically similar: WS-AT is like the ACID model in the WS-CAF WS-TXM spec; WS-CAF’s WS-CF is a superset of WS-C, and the WS-CAF Long Running Action is very similar to the WS-BA spec. When we were writing the WS-CAF specifications we intentionally aligned them with the BEA/IBM/Microsoft specifications and focused on (a) ensuring compatibility and (b) defining what we felt were useful extensions and additions.
It was great to have the feedback workshop, and it was great to have the opportunity to attend and propose convergence.
It also would be really great to be able to work together again with the old friends and colleagues in the room last Wednesday… and really get the community back together again.

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