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Last modified: March 25, 2008
XML Daily Newslink. Tuesday, 25 March 2008

A Cover Pages Publication
Provided by OASIS and Sponsor Members
Edited by Robin Cover

This issue of XML Daily Newslink is sponsored by:
Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Web Technologies: SOA What?
Michael J. Carey, IEEE Computer

Why is the enterprise software industry all abuzz about SOA? The SOA world has recently begun to realize that SOA applications are ultimately still just applications. Data services are thus an important class of services that warrant explicit consideration in designing, building, and maintaining SOA applications. Those of us who grew up in the "preaSOAic" era will quickly notice that something is missing from [typical SOA diagrams]: a data model associated with the application. To use a simple analogy, services provide operations that are akin to verbs—the business actions available to application developers. Missing are the nouns—the data entities. By focusing only on business processes and services, the basic SOA model misses what the actions are about. In addition, business processes often need access to information. While some middleware software vendors have been making data service noises for several years, a survey of current information-integration vendor offerings reveals an emerging consensus that data services will play a key role in SOA applications. BEA Systems, Composite Software, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat, and Xcalia are among the growing list of companies seeking to make data services easier to build and maintain with recent or forthcoming products. In addition to service-enabling data, most such products include data-integration capabilities that provide uniform, service-oriented access to otherwise disparate data types and data sources. Is SOA the next wave or a passing fad? Several signs point to a lasting future for SOA. A range of organizations and companies are pursuing SOA initiatives today, and the emerging SaaS trend suggests that future enterprises' business processes will commonly orchestrate services residing both in-house and across the Web. And what about data services—are they for real? Because data will always be central to applications, it's likely that data services will "stick" in the SOA world. Consequently, systems that make building and managing data services easier will become an increasingly significant piece of the enterprise information integration puzzle. Moreover, data-service modeling will become a design discipline in need of sound new methodologies and supporting tools.

See also: IEEE Computer Magazine

Developing International Standards for Very Small Enterprises
C. Laporte, S. Alexandre, A. Renault; IEEE Computer

Industry recognizes that very small enterprises (VSEs) contribute valuable products and services. In Europe, for example, 85 percent of the IT sector's companies have only one to 10 employees. According to a recent survey, 78 percent of software development enterprises in the Montreal area have fewer than 25 employees, while 50 percent have fewer than 10. Studies and surveys confirm that current software engineering standards do not address the needs of these organizations, especially those with a low capability level. Compliance with standards such as those from ISO and the IEEE is difficult if not impossible for them to achieve. Subsequently, VSEs have no or very limited ways to be recognized as enterprises that produce quality software systems in their domain. Therefore, they are often cut off from some economic activities. To rectify some of these difficulties, delegates from five national bodies of the 2004 International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission Joint Technical Committee 1/Sub Committee 7 (SC7) plenary meeting in Australia reached a consensus regarding the necessity of providing VSEs with standards adapted to their size and particular context, including a set of profiles and guides... VSEs express the need for assistance to adopt and implement standards. More than 62 percent would like more guidance with examples, and 55 percent asked for lightweight and easy-to-understand standards, complete with templates. Finally, the respondents indicated that it must be possible to implement standards with minimum cost, time, and resources. In 2005, at the SC7 Plenary meeting in Finland, Thailand proposed the creation of a new working group to meet these objectives. Twelve countries voted in favor of establishing such a group, named Working Group 24 (WG24). WG24 used the concept of ISO profiles (ISP: International Standardized Profile) to develop the new standard for VSEs. A profile is defined as 'a set of one or more base standards and/or ISPs, and, where applicable, the identification of chosen classes, conforming subsets, options and parameters of those base standards, or ISPs necessary to accomplish a particular function'. [One approach involves production of] guidelines explaining in more detail the processes outlined in the profile. These guidelines will be published as ISO technical reports and should be freely accessible to VSEs. The guidelines integrate a series of deployment packages that provide a set of artifacts developed to facilitate and accelerate the implementation of a set of practices for the selected framework in a VSE. The elements of a typical deployment package include a process description (tasks, inputs, outputs, and roles), guide, template, checklist, example, presentation material, mapping to standards and models, and list of tools to help VSEs implement the process. WG24 plans to produce a final draft in 2009, with publication by ISO/IEC scheduled for 2010. In the meantime, the group will make deployment packages freely available to VSEs. The group also will develop other profiles, covering different capability levels and application domains, such as finance or defense.

See also: IEEE Computer Magazine

Google, MySpace, Yahoo Forge OpenSocial Foundation
Antone Gonsalves, InformationWeek

Google, MySpace, and Yahoo announced they have agreed to form a non-profit group that would govern the development of a standard application programming interface that developers could use in building software for supporting online social networks. The three Internet companies expected the OpenSocial Foundation to launch in 90 days, and asked for others in the industry to rally behind the OpenSocial API, which was developed by Google to foster development across emerging social-network development platforms. MySpace, which accounted for three-quarters of the Web traffic to social networks in the U.S. in 2007, and its second-place rival Facebook have been opening up their platforms to third-party developers in an attempt to add services that may attract advertisers and keep subscribers on the sites longer. While Facebook is offering its own proprietary tools, MySpace and other social networks, including Google's Orkut, Hi5, Friendster, Imeem, LinkedIn, and Plaxo, have agreed to adopt the OpenSocial API, which connects to Web apps built in JavaScript and HTML. Google, MySpace and Yahoo have agreed to contribute technology to the OpenSocial Foundation under a "non assertion covenant," which means they won't seek to enforce any patents on the intellectual property, representatives told reporters during a teleconference. All companies joining the foundation would be expected to contribute technology under the Creative Commons copyright license. The companies will continue to work together and with the OpenSocial community to further advance the specification through the new foundation, as well as an open source reference implementation called Shindig. Shindig is a new project in the Apache Software Foundation incubator and is an open source implementation of the OpenSocial specification and gadgets specification. The architectural components of Shindig are: (1) Gadget Container JavaScript: core JavaScript foundation for general gadget functionality; this JavaScript manages security, communication, UI layout, and feature extensions, such as the OpenSocial API; (2) Gadget Server: an open source version of Google's, which is used to render the gadget XML into JavaScript and HTML for the container to expose via the container JavaScript; (3) OpenSocial Container JavaScript: JavaScript environment that sits on top of the Gadget Container JavaScript and provides OpenSocial specific functionality -- profiles, friends, activities, datastore; (4) OpenSocial Gateway Server: an implementation of the server interface to container-specific information, including the OpenSocial REST APIs, with clear extension points so others can connect it to their own backends.

See also: the announcement

Getting Started with XAML in Silverlight
Dan Wahlin, DDJ

The popularity of declarative markup languages has gradually increased since the initial release of HTML. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone given that markup languages let information be presented to end users without requiring any knowledge of a programming language. For years HTML has served as the declarative language of choice for presenting information to end users through a browser and it certainly isn't going anywhere in the near future. However, new declarative languages such as Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) have emerged, providing an alternate means for displaying data in more rich and engaging ways than HTML is capable of doing. In this article, I introduce the XAML language and describe several ways it can be used in Silverlight applications. The topics covered will focus on functionality available in Silverlight 1.0. Future articles will introduce new XAML features available in Silverlight 2.0. XAML was originally created for the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) technology released with .NET 3.0. WPF and XAML provide a way to integrate designers into the application development process and create rich and interactive desktop (and even Web) applications that can bind to a variety of data sources. The release of Silverlight 1.0 brought XAML to the world of rich internet application development. Silverlight exposes a subset of the XAML language found in WPF that can be run directly in the browser once the Silverlight plug-in has been installed... Although Silverlight provides a subset of the XAML language available in WPF, the different declarative elements and attributes available can accomplish a lot and provide functionality that simply isn't available in the HTML language. For example, different types of shapes such as rectangles, ellipses, and lines can be defined and displayed using XAML. Different types of backgrounds can be defined for shapes as well including gradients, images, and media clips... Learning XAML is much like learning HTML; you have to learn the different tag names and understand how tags can be nested within parent containers. Once you know the available elements and attributes it's relatively easy to create a XAML file.

See also: the Silverlight SDK

E-Discovery Guru Not Yet Wed to XML
Craig Ball, Law Technology News

I want XML the dragon slayer: all the functionality of native electronic evidence coupled with the ease of identification, reliable redaction and intelligibility of paper documents. The promise is palpable; but for now, XML is just a clever replacement for load files, those clumsy Sancho Panzas that serve as squire to addled TIFF image productions. Maybe that's reason enough to love XML... In e-discovery, we deal with information piecemeal, such as native documents and system metadata or e-mail messages and headers. We even deconstruct evidence by imaging it and stripping it of searchability, only to have to reconstruct the lost text and produce it with the image. Metadata, header data and searchable text tend to be produced in containers called load files housing delimited text, meaning that values in each row of data follow a rigid sequence and are separated by characters like commas, tabs or quotation marks. Using load files entails negotiating their organization or agreeing to employ a structure geared to review software such as CT Summation or Lexis Nexis Concordance. Conventional load files are unforgiving. Deviate from the required sequence, or omit, misplace or include an extra delimiter, and it's a train wreck... There is no standard e-discovery XML schema in wide use, but consultants George Socha and Tom Gelbmann are promoting one crafted as part of their groundbreaking Electronic Discovery Reference Model project. Socha (a member of LTN's Editorial Advisory Board) and Gelbmann have done an impressive job securing commitments from e-discovery service providers to adopt EDRM XML as an industry lingua franca... A mature e-discovery XML schema must incorporate and authenticate native and nontextual data and ensure that the resulting XML stays valid and well-formed. It's feasible to encode and incorporate binary formats using MIME (the same way they travel via e-mail), and to authenticate by hashing; but these refinements aren't yet a part of the EDRM schema. So stay tuned. I don't love XML yet, but it promises to be everyone's new best friend.

See also: Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) XML

Workflow Resource Patterns as a Tool to Support OASIS BPEL4People Standardization Efforts
Nick Russell and Wil M.P. van der Aalst, BPTrends Report

OASIS [recently] announced the formation of the WS-BPEL Extension for People (BPEL4People) Technical Committee... As part of the standardization process, these proposals are still open to comment in order to ensure that they meet with general acceptance before being finalized as standards. However, one of the difficulties with evaluating new standards initiatives is in finding a suitable conceptual basis against which their capabilities can be examined and benchmarked. In order to assist with this activity, this paper proposes the use of the workflow resource patterns, as a means of evaluating the BPEL4People and WS-HumanTask proposals. The resource patterns provide a comprehensive description of the various factors that are relevant to human resource management and work distribution in business processes. They offer a means of examining the capabilities of the two proposals from a conceptual standpoint in a way that is independent of specific technological and implementation considerations. Through this examination, we hope to determine where the strengths and weaknesses of these proposals lie and what opportunities there may be for further improvement. The resource patterns were developed as part of the Workflow Patterns Initiative, an ongoing research project that was conceived with the goal of identifying the core architectural constructs inherent in workflow technology. The original objective was to delineate the fundamental requirements that arise during business process modeling on a recurring basis and describe them in an imperative way. A patterns-based approach was taken to describe these requirements as it offered both a language-independent and technology-independent means of expressing their core characteristics in a form that was sufficiently generic to allow for its application to a wide variety of offerings. To date, 126 patterns have been identified in the control-flow, data, and resource, perspectives, and they have been used for a wide variety of purposes, including evaluation of PAISs, tool selection, process design, education, and training. The workflow patterns have been enthusiastically received by both industry practitioners and academics alike. The original Workflow Patterns paper has been cited by over 150 academic publications, and the workflow patterns website has been visited more than 100,000 times... We examine the intention and coverage provided by the BPEL4People and WSHumanTask proposals from various perspectives, starting with their intention and relationship with related proposals and standards and then examining their informational and state-based characteristics on a comparative basis against those described by the workflow resource patterns... We hope that the observations and recommendations [...] will assist the OASIS BPEL4People standardization efforts. We are convinced that an analytical approach based on the workflow/resource patterns can aid discussions and remove ambiguities...

BPEL4People and WS-HumanTask Get Reference Implementation
Rich Seeley,

BPEL4People and WS-HumanTask (WS-HT), while still specifications in the OASIS standardization process, can now be used in service-oriented architecture (SOA) development, said Mike Pellegrini, principal architect at Active Endpoints Inc. He has incorporated both specifications in this month's release of his company's visual orchestration systems (VOS) product, ActiveVOS 5.0, which provides graphic tools for design, development, testing, deployment and maintenance of SOA applications... This past week, Pellegrini demonstrated how BPEL4People and WS-HT can be used in the orchestration of a loan processing application. The demo showed a business process application where for routine loans a filter can automate the assessment of whether an applicant is a good or bad risk. However, when the applicant's credit history is a gray area, a loan officer must review the application and sign-off on its approval or denial. That is where BPEL4People and WS-HT come into play. Using those two specifications, the hand off from the automated process to the loan officer is tracked by the BPEL-based application, Pellegrini said. As he showed a view of this process through his visual orchestration tool, he explained: "It has been routed through the WS-HT specification task definition. It is routed to a task management system. Now, the system is just tapping it's fingers waiting for the human to finish." Pellegrini said this amounted to "a sort of reference implementation for WS-HT in-box APIs that allows us to get a list of the tasks at hand and the completed tasks." While the task is not generally a long-running endeavor, the specifications do allow for that fact that humans aren't usually as fast at completing tasks as computers are. In the demo, there is allowance for the task to be saved if the loan officer cannot complete it in a day, so he can finish it the next day...

See also: the announcement

New Release: OpenUDDI Server Version 0.9.7
Joakim Recht, SourceForge Project Announcement

On behalf of the OpenUDDI (Open Source UDDI) project team, Joakim Recht has announced the release of OpenUDDI Server Version 0.9.7. The OpenUDDI project is focused on creating a high performance, easy-to-use UDDI v3 compliant server and client library. The server and client is built using Java—version 5 for the server and version 1.4 for the client. The server uses Hibernate, and supports a wide variety of SQL databases, as well as LDAP for data storage. The project is built on the Novell UDDI server but with many new features and optimizations. The primary contributor is Trifork, sponsored by the Danish National IT and Telecom Agency. OpenUDDI recently created a new OpenUDDI project site at SourceForge. Previously, OpenUDDI has been hosted at Softwareborsen, the Danish government's open source site; however, that site was only in Danish, and OpenUDDI has attracted interest from other countries; the new project site which is targeted at a wider audience. Changelog for server v0.9.7: (1) Tuned category bag heuristics; (2) Improved Hibernate performance; (3) Always replace Hibernate properties in installer; (4) Schedule authToken expiration thread periodically; (5) Configure log4j logging correctly; the default seems to be that 'isTraceEnabled()' returns true while 'trace()' does nothing. Version 0.9.7 is mainly a maintenance release with bug and performance fixes.

See also: the project web site at SourceForge

The Frog Race: The Desire for Control and How Large Companies Interact With Standards Organizations
Rick Jelliffe, O'Reilly Articles

I was told recently that of the 250 or so fast-tracked standards that Ecma has successfully had accepted by National Bodies at ISO/IEC, only three of them have failed. I thought it would be interesting to read up a little more on them... Control of the API: ISO standards are a very scary proposition for large companies. Many of them are not comfortable with any position other than dominance and stability. The control of the API is terribly important to them, and they regard loss of control of the API as a risk (whereas it can be a circuit-breaker and new-market enabler.) This is one reason why all the large companies try to favour the member-based boutique standards bodies: W3C, OASIS, Ecma, because there is more chance that they can establish a beachhead and make participation at those bodies unattractive or futile for their competitors. The need for stability is sometimes stronger than the need for dominance: when you see calls for 'equilibrium' to be maintained in a market, you know that is a buzzword for maintaining the status quo. (And it is not always the market leader: it can be a smaller player in fear of losing their share just as much.) It goes in cycles. The wheel turns and sooner or later the big companies are forced to deal with ISO and national bodies, and they find this lack of control very unpleasant. Sooner or later they find some reason to split back to more dominatable bodies, and they jump ship. It is not all venal (or even venial) or negative though: for example, look at SGML: Sun's Jon Bosak (and many others) were unhappy with the way and speed that SGML maintenance was proceeding and we went to W3C as a forum for making a simple profile and addressing a lot of peripheral issues, and XML in turn became the foundation for the update of SGML. There is always an interplay between what the boutique, specialist bodies are interested in, and what the national-body-based regimes such as ISO are interested in: industry activity is actually really important, because it clarifies what the ISO groups should be doing. The downside is that when these large, usually-US-based multinationals hop over to their boutique bodies, they have to try to justify their jump by slagging off at ISO/IEC. This is a predictable behaviour: it has happened in the past, it is happening now, and it will happen in the future. Some parts of the complaints are often reasonable, some parts are often merely self-serving, but it is not a new behaviour...


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