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Specifications for Business Transactions and Process Automation

Microsoft, IBM and BEA Deliver Specifications for Business Transactions and Process Automation Within and Between Companies

WS-Coordination, WS-Transaction and BPEL4WS Describe How to Reliably Define, Create and Connect Multiple Business Processes in a Web Services Environment

Redmond, WA., Somers, N.Y., and San Jose, CA, USA. August 9, 2002

Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. and BEA Systems, Inc. today announced the publication of specifications to collectively describe how to reliably define, create and connect multiple business processes in a Web services environment, and help organizations coordinate business processes and transactions within the enterprise and with partners and customers across heterogeneous systems and within the enterprise. Announced were the new specifications to address transacted communications of Web services (WS-Coordination, WS-Transaction) and a new language to describe business processes (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services, or BPEL4WS).

A business process describes the flow of tasks, the order in which they need to be performed, the type of data shared and how other partners are involved. BPEL4WS allows companies to describe business processes that include multiple Web services and standardize message exchange internally and between partners. WS-Coordination and WS-Transaction provide companies with a reliable and durable way of handling multiple Web services interactions, regardless of the underlying computing infrastructure. In addition, they outline how partners can interact with a collection of Web services and coordinate the outcome of those corresponding activities.

For example, a travel agency that exposes its business travel processes -- such as hotel, flight or car rental reservation applications -- as Web services can integrate and transact with the business travel processes of its customers and partners. Using BPEL4WS, WS-Coordination and WS-Transaction, the travel agency's customer could electronically submit a travel itinerary to an agent; the agent's system can automatically procure the appropriate airline, hotel and car reservations from partners to match the customer request; and the system can then send confirmation of all reservations back to the customer once the itinerary processing is complete. In case one of the applications fails, tasks that have already been completed can be automatically undone.


WS-Coordination provides developers with a way to manage the operations related to a business activity. A business process may involve a number of Web services working together to provide a common solution. Each service needs to be able to coordinate its activities with those of the other services for the process to succeed. Coordination involves the sequencing of operations in a process to reach an agreement on the overall outcome of the business process.

WS-Coordination provides the structure under which coordination can take place. The specification supplies standard mechanisms to create and register with transaction protocols that coordinate the execution of distributed operations in a Web services environment. WS-Coordination will help developers control operations that span interoperable Web services.


WS-Transaction allows businesses to monitor the success or failure of each specific, coordinated activity in a business process. It provides businesses with a flexible transaction protocol to help enable consistent and reliable operations across distributed organizations in a Web services environment. The specification also allows the business process to react to faults detected during execution.

WS-Transaction provides for short- and long-running transactions in which resources cannot be locked for the duration of the business process. In both cases, WS-Transaction takes advantage of the structure WS-Coordination provides to enable all participating Web services to end the business process with a shared understanding of its outcome.

For example, a travel reservation process contains a number of activities that must be successfully completed, several of which may run simultaneously, such as airline ticketing, car rental and hotel room booking. The use of WS-Transaction with WS-Coordination helps ensure that these tasks, no matter how they are distributed across programming platforms and companies, all succeed or fail as a unit.


BPEL4WS is an XML-based flow language that defines how business processes interact. This interaction can involve processes contained within or between enterprises. It allows companies to describe complex business processes that can span multiple companies, such as order processing, lead management and claims handling. These business processes can use partner-provided Web services, and can also be offered as Web services business process functions internally or to partners in a reliable and dependable way.

In addition, BPEL4WS helps enable business processes to interoperate within and between companies that use different underlying technologies. This will help companies execute the same business processes in the systems of other vendors, and facilitate message exchange internally and between partners.

BPEL4WS replaces the existing IBM WSFL and Microsoft XLANG efforts by combining and extending the functions of these previous foundation technologies.

Once the business process and the connections with customers, partners and internal entities are defined using BPEL4WS, the next step is to coordinate the various activities that occur within a business process, in order and at the right time for completion. WS-Coordination and WS-Transaction complement BPEL4WS by providing a way for companies to coordinate and integrate a number of distinct Web services and business processes, consistently and reliably, across a variety of implementation environments to ensure the right outcome.

Those wanting more information and to view the specifications should visit the following sites:

About IBM

IBM is the world's largest information technology company, with 80 years of leadership in helping businesses innovate. IBM software offers the widest range of infrastructure software for all types of computing platforms, allowing customers to take full advantage of the new era of e-business. The fastest way to get more information about IBM software is through the IBM home page at

About BEA

BEA Systems, Inc. is the world's leading application infrastructure software company, providing the enterprise software foundation for 13,000 customers around the world, including the majority of the Fortune Global 500. BEA and its WebLogic brand are among the most trusted names in business. Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., BEA has 91 offices in 33 countries and is on the Web at

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software -- any time, any place and on any device.

[Source: IBM, Microsoft]

Prepared by Robin Cover for The XML Cover Pages archive. See other details referenced in "Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS)" and the news item of 2002-08-12. Updated 2005-10: "OASIS Members Form Web Services Transaction (WS-TX) Technical Committee."

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