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Sun proposes new Web services specs

The company and a handful of partners are seeking the approval of a Web services specifications for coordinating electronic transactions.

Sun Microsystems and a handful of partners on Monday will announce they are seeking the approval of Web services specifications for coordinating electronic transactions.

Sun, Oracle, Iona Technologies, Fujitsu Software and Arjuna Technologies will submit the specifications, the Web Services Composite Applications Framework (WS-CAF), to either the World Wide Web Consortium or the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) for development as standards in the next several weeks.

Web services is the umbrella term for programming techniques and a set of XML (Extensible Markup Langauge)-based standards that make it simpler to share information between disparate systems. Information technology providers have coalesced around basic Web services standards for formatting data and sending information between applications. But several standards proposals have emerged over the past two years to address more complex computing scenarios and requirements such as security, transactions and reliable communications.

WS-CAF, which comprises three individual specifications, proposes a mechanism for coordinating transactions across many machines in multistep business processes. The authors of the specifications hope simplified interactions between Web services will allow companies to assemble business applications with Web services more quickly.

The WS-CAF specifications would create a prearranged way to configure systems so that Web services applications from different providers could share important transactional information. For example, administration tools based on WS-CAF would ensure that a consumer making vacation reservations online could coordinate bookings at three different Web sites for travel, car and hotel reservations at the same time.

Current business systems have methods for sharing the status of ongoing transactions across different machines. The WS-CAF set of specifications seeks to improve interoperability by standardizing that capability among different providers, said Eric Newcomer, chief technology officer at Iona.

The Sun-led group of companies intends to garner input from other IT providers through the standardization process, said Ed Jolson, Sun's group manager for Web services standards.

Notably absent from the companies that have committed to the development of WS-CAF are industry giants IBM and Microsoft, which have dominated Web services standards. Microsoft declined an invitation to participate in the development of the standard about a year ago, according to Newcomer. IBM was also recently approached but has not yet decided to join the group of WS-CAF backers, he added.