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Web services reliability specification fails to impress

Peter Abrahams looks at the draft and having spent the last few years working with reliable messaging, he was somewhat surprised that the WS-R draft was just a definition of the message structures that should flow between SOAP nodes.

Market Analysis

Having just set up Bloor Research's Integration Infrastructure practice I thought I should review the press releases since the beginning of the year.

I came across an announcement from January 9th that started: 'A group of leading IT vendors, consisting of Fujitsu Limited, Hitachi, Ltd., NEC Corp, Oracle Corp., Sonic Software, and Sun Microsystems, today announced the publication of the Web Services Reliability (WS-Reliability) specification working draft. By providing a fundamentally more reliable transport infrastructure, WS-Reliability will help accelerate adoption of Web services, making them relevant for an even wider range of enterprise application and integration challenges.'

This caught my eye firstly because I agree with the sentiment that web services need to be made more reliable, but also because of the likely suspects missing from the list, especially IBM, BEA and Microsoft.

I looked at the draft and having spent the last few years working with reliable messaging I was somewhat surprised that this was just a definition of the message structures that should flow between SOAP nodes.

The application was still responsible for all the logic to ensure that a message was delivered including: creating unique message ids, saving the message in persistent storage, processing acknowledgements and timeouts, dealing with duplicate messages and messaging ordering.

I had hoped that all that would be dealt with by some middle layer. In fact I believe that this must be dealt with by standard middleware otherwise the fragility of the code will compromise the reliability of the whole system.

The draft specification states that :'(it) borrows from previous work in messaging and transport protocols, e.g., SOAP and the ebXML Message Services (ebMS). It proposes appropriate modifications to apply this work to Web Services'.

I looked at these specifications and it is certainly true that WS-Reliability borrows from them; but I found it more difficult to understand what modifications had been made and for what purpose. In fact I felt that the ebMS specification with its definition of Message Service Handler (MSH) covered what I had expected to see in the WS-Reliability specification.

In conclusion I failed to be impressed because:

  • It failed to explain why it was important
  • It failed to explain how it integrated with the existing standards
  • It failed to simplify the coding required by the application

Watch this space for more detail as I continue my exploration of this area.

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