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Does ebXML have lasting power?

I have noticed lately quite a lot of support for ebMS springing up. I suppose it has advantages over straight SOAP/WSDL messaging in terms of built-in reliability features, but does it really have long-term legs?

After all, the upper-stack ebXML CPPA does not seem to have gained much purchase in North America, although it has done better in the Asia-Pacific region and some government circles. In North America, BPEL seems to have much more industry momentum, so once WS-Security (WS-S/T/X/Y/Z whatever) has matured (how long will that be?) will ebMS just fade into irrelevance?

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The OASIS organization is now solidly behind ebXML Messaging Services (aka ebMS), and a new draft was produced on Nov. 30, 2005, just about three short months ago. I think it's not an unsafe bet (notice the double negative? It's a hesitant acknowledgement/recommendation to be sure) and also one that's more likely to produce both internally usable and externally sharable results than a "roll your own" implementation built atop the raw building blocks of SOAP and WSDL. That said, it's far from clear that ebMS offers any distinct advantages over BPEL (also the subject of an emerging OASIS specification, ironically enough) and doesn't have the throw weight of IBM fully behind it, either.

Were I in your shoes, I would ask my customer if they had a compelling reason to go one way or the other. If partnerships or alliances don't dictate the choice for them and you, I'm inclined to back your play and tell you to go ahead with BPEL. It has a lot more supporting infrastructure at this point and (from what I can tell) is the focus for lots more actual implementations and adoptions as well.

If all else fails, cheer yourself up with this statement of fact: Any sufficiently rigorous XML syntax/structure (and both sets of markup qualify) can be transformed into something else equally arbitrary and rigorous using XSLT in the future! Just hope like heck it will be a one-way-only transform!

This was first published in February 2006

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