Category Archives: Transaction Processing

The Last Face to Face for WS-TX?

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m currently a co-chair of the OASIS WS-TX TC, chartered last year to progress the WS-Transactions family of specifications.
This week we held a successful face to face meeting in Concord, MA, hosted in inimitable style by Hitachi (we can’t say enough thanks for the truly great hospitality this time and last year as well). Special thanks to Bob Freund for hosting the “unwinder” at his home (and inviting a member of the Sudbury Militia).
In fact, it was so successful that we finished up the agenda a bit early and found some time to take in some monuments and exhibits decicated to colonial era history.
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WS-TX British Representatives at the North Bridge Monument (on the British Side)
(full photo)
Among the participants in the TC were Andy and Ian (my co-chair, on the right), who had traveled from Britain to attend. They were very good sports about the whole history thing, considering they were more familiar with a somewhat different side of the story.
As we were leaving the museum to head toward the cemetary we heard the sound of fife and drum from the far side of the bridge. It turned out to be a send off ceremony for some national guardsmen on their way to a NATO base in the Balkans.
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The Fife and Drum Corps Plays the Star Spangled Banner
(full photo)
This was an unexpected bonus to the day, as was the warming weather and the appearance of the sun when we got to the famous cemetary in town where all the writers are buried. Concord, famous as the site of the battle that started the war, and later as the home of thoughtful and famous writers, including Thoreau, known among other things for his pacifism.
Regarding the specifications, well, they are well on their way toward OASIS standard. Ian and I are very close to declaring victory in this little campaign and are talking about closing down the TC within a few months.
This would be unusual in the standards world – completing the chartered task in roughly the originally alloted timeframe, and closing down a TC. This would be a good accomplishment, but it’s a mixed blessing. This is also one of the best TCs I’ve ever worked on.
Some more photos of the tour of Concord are on flickr.

Progress on WS-Transactions

I celebrated my return from vacation Monday by getting on a plane to Seattle for the three-day Web Services Transactions technical committee face to face. 😉
Bad weather in Chicago caused a total of 5 hours’ delay on the way out, and I missed my connection. My bag, which I checked only because of the new restrictions, ended up on a different plane than I did, which cost me one of those hours. On the way back I decided it wouldn’t happen again, so before leaving the hotel I threw away all the toothpaste, shaving gel, and cologne in my toilet kit. Of course the weather was fine Friday and the delays were minimal…
Anyway from Tuesday through Thursday we made some good progress on the WS-Transactions specifications. These are important specifications because some applications of Web services and SOA require transactional integrity, and because the coordination spec (WS-C) and compensation spec (WS-BA) lay the foundation for some of the advanced transaction models we will need for large scale, loosely-coupled, asynchronous applications of SOA.
Tuesday and Wednesday we resolved all outstanding issues with current drafts of WS-Coordination and WS-AtomicTransaction. We confirmed successful interop testing of them, and voted them to Public Review, which is the next step toward their becoming OASIS standards. (The new drafts will be posted soon on the TC website.)
Wednesday evening Ian Robinson, my co-chair, had the idea of going to the restaurant in the Space Needle. Not everyone went, but those of us who did had a great view of the sunset. As is typical for Seattle the day had been cloudy with a bit of rain but by evening it started to clear.
After a Long Day of Processing Transaction Processing Issues
A lot of the discussion on Thursday was given over to issues on the WS-BusinessActivity specification.
The two-phase commit protocol defined in WS-AT hasn’t fundamentally changed in 20 years (or more), and has been standardized at least four times previously (OSI TP, TX-RPC, OTS/JTS, and TIP). And implementations of this specification interoperate pretty smoothly, and the spec is pretty stable.
Of course you might ask whether two-phase commit is appropriate for Web services and SOA, but the answer is, like anything else, that it depends what you’re doing, and it sometimes is.
Anyway the bigger, more open discussion is on alternative protocol models, which are more appropriate for asynchronous or long-running applications, such as WS-BA. Less is known about these from implementation experience.
WS-BA is an “open nested transaction” protocol, which means that “nested” or substransactions can commit without the overall transaction committing. Compensation actions are then required to undo any changes should the overall transaction have to roll back.
In this context the overall transaction can be thought of as a WS-BPEL script with multiple service invocations, and in fact one of the design criteria, if not the main one, for WS-BA is that is is a good match for WS-BPEL compensation scopes.
Other advanced transaction models and protocol mappings are possible on top of WS-C, but these are outside the scope of the current TC. We are still hoping to complete the TC’s work within about a year of it’s initial meeting last November, and at the moment we are probably on track for completion in early 2007.

Madrid

Ok, this was Monday and Tuesday but I need to catch up a bit before going ahead with Munich (where I am today).
The purpose of the trip to Madrid was to meet with Telefonica, one of IONA’s longstanding customers, and present some information about SOA, Web services standards, SCA and the Eclipse STP project, within the context of their evaluation of our new product line (Artix).
It was interesting to hear about Telefonica’s recent acquisition of O2 (who is already using our new product in production in the UK) and about their IPTV solution, which apparently is being readied for sales outside of Spain.
But the highlight of the visit for me was dinner with Ricardo Jimenez-Peris, whom I’d met briefly at dinner during an ObjectWeb converence in Grenoble last month. Ricardo took me to one of his favorite restaurants, and the food was unbelievable. One of the best meals I have ever had. We had anchovies in vinegar, Iberian ham (appropriately enough for us TP guys fed on Encina acorns), a platter of mixed seafood fried in a dry batter (i.e. didn’t absorb the grease), and octopus with potatoes. This last dish was far and away the best octopus I ever tasted, just superb.
One of Ricardo’s major interests in his work at the University of Madrid is transaction processing. In fact I was a reviewer of one of his papers being presented at WWW20006. Ironically enough I will be in Edinburgh the days just before WWW2006 attending the W3C Advisory Committee meeting, where I’m chairing a panel discussion on enterprise software standardization requirements. That will also be the end of my present European tour ;-).
Anyway, the paper is based on WS-CAF and WS-Transactions. We knew each other’s work before we met, and we found a lot to talk about over dinner, dessert (great raspberry sorbet), and coffee.
Ricardo has also been researching a potential optimization for 2PC based on reliable multicast, which sounds very promising.