Article

Web services reliability specification fails to impress

Peter Abrahams


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

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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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