HP Helps Seed Next Generation Of Web Services

New WSDM specs for communicating management information fill a gap in Web-services standards.
Hewlett-Packard says Web services took a giant step forward earlier this month with the approval of Web Services Distributed Management 1.0, which allows services with little knowledge of each other to interoperate and understand how each needs to run.

WSDM fills a hole that existing standards for creating Web services, such as XML or Universal Discovery, Description, and Integration (for building registries of Web services), did not cover, says Judi Cowell, director of research and development for HP's Standards Program Office.

WSDM allows management information to be communicated across the many software elements that make up an operational Web service. Web services by design are loosely coupled, or lacking in specific information about each other. Without WSDM, there was an invisible barrier between Web services: They didn't have the means to talk about management issues.

The Oasis standards body approved the 1.0 version of the WSDM specification on March 9. Before that approval, HP produced reference implementations of the three parts of the WSDM specs and donated them as open-source code to the Apache Foundation.

Web-services adoption would progress faster if the standards bodies had thought out a protocol for management communications earlier, Cowell says. "Many people would say we're a little late," she says in an interview. "All this chaos [of loosely coupled systems] becomes possible to manage because now we have a straightforward management protocol."

A system failure is one example of management information that needs to be communicated between Web-services applications. Say that a service that's supposed to deliver a stock quote to a handheld device every five minutes fails to do so. The device responds by sending a message to the service. Because the message arrives using the WSDM management protocol, the service recognizes it's confronting a service-level-agreement problem, troubleshoots the failure, and reactivates timely delivery of the quotes, Cowell explains.

HP produced the reference implementations for the three specifications that make up WSDM:

• Management Using Web Services is a specification that defines how to represent the management interface of a resource that's part of a Web service

• Web Services Notification is the specification that explains how to send the management information

• Web Services Resource Framework provides a way of exposing and representing resources that make up a service, such as the amount of memory available in a handheld device or the display size of a cell phone

The coded implementations of the three specifications are not yet Apache open-source projects, where they will eventually undergo continued development. They are in a preliminary stage known as "incubation," where the machinery for an open-source project is set up.

HP says it has already implemented the three specifications within its OpenView network-management software. IBM has implemented them in its Emerging Technology Toolkit, a Web-services software development kit, Cowell says. And Computer Associates has implemented them in its Web Services Distributed Management product, known as CA-WSDM.

For a vendor to rapidly adopt a competitor's implementation of a technology standard, it has to be confident that it will be put in a neutral arena as open-source code, Cowell says. "You have to have an initial sponsor and contributor. HP seeded it," she says, giving HP credit for taking that crucial step.

Companies with representatives on the Oasis technical committee that drafted the WSDM specifications included Actional, BEA Systems, BMC Software, CA, Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, IBM, Novell, Oracle, and Tibco Software, in addition to HP.

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