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Last modified: March 15, 2010
XML Daily Newslink. Monday, 15 March 2010

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

This issue of XML Daily Newslink is sponsored by:
Oracle Corporation

OASIS BPEL4People TC Releases Specifications for Public Review
L. Clement, D. Koenig, V. Mehta, R. Mueller (et al, eds), OASIS PRDs

Members of the OASIS WS-BPEL Extension for People (BPEL4People) Technical Committee have submitted two Committee Draft specifications for for public review through March 24, 2010. This OASIS TC was chartered in 2008 to define "(1) extensions to the OASIS WS-BPEL 2.0 Standard to enable human interactions, and (2) a model of human interactions that are service-enabled. This technical work is being carried out through continued refinement of the BPEL4People and WS-HumanTask specifications. The TC's focus is on: defining the specification of a WS-BPEL extension enabling the definition of human interactions ('human tasks') as part of a WS-BPEL process, defining the specification of a model enabling the definition of human tasks that are exposed as Web services, and defining a programming interface enabling human task client applications to work with human tasks.

The WS-BPEL Extension for People (BPEL4People) Specification Version 1.1 introduces a BPEL extension to address human interactions in BPEL as a first-class citizen. It defines a new type of basic activity which uses human tasks as an implementation, and allows specifying tasks local to a process or use tasks defined outside of the process definition. This extension is based on the WS-HumanTask specification. WS-BPEL 2.0 (Web Services Business Process Execution Language, version 2.0) itself introduces a model for business processes based on Web services. A BPEL process orchestrates interactions among different Web services. The language encompasses features needed to describe complex control flows, including error handling and compensation behavior. In practice, however many business process scenarios require human interactions. A process definition should incorporate people as another type of participants, because humans may also take part in business processes and can influence the process execution.

The goal of this BPEL4People extension specification is to enable portability and interoperability, where 'portability' is the ability to take design-time artifacts created in one vendor's environment and use them in another vendor's environment and 'interoperability' is the capability for multiple components (process infrastructure, task infrastructures and task list clients) to interact using well-defined messages and protocols. This enables combining components from different vendors allowing seamless execution.

The Web Services - Human Task (WS-HumanTask) Specification Version 1.1 addresses human tasks — tasks enable the integration of human beings in service-oriented applications. This document provides a notation, state diagram and API for human tasks, as well as a coordination protocol that allows interaction with human tasks in a more service- oriented fashion and at the same time controls tasks' autonomy... Human tasks are services implemented by people. They allow the integration of humans in service-oriented applications. A human task has two interfaces. One interface exposes the service offered by the task, like a translation service or an approval service. The second interface allows people to deal with tasks, for example to query for human tasks waiting for them, and to work on these tasks. A human task has people assigned to it. These assignments define who should be allowed to play a certain role on that task... Human tasks can be defined to react to timeouts, triggering an appropriate escalation action. This also holds true for notifications. A notification is a special type of human task that allows the sending of information about noteworthy business events to people..."

See also: the WS-HumanTask Specification

IETF Internet Draft: Requirements for End-to-End Encryption in XMPP
Peter Saint-Andre (ed), IETF Internet Draft

Members of the IETF Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) Working Group have published an Internet Draft specifying Requirements for End-to-End Encryption in the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). The Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol is an open technology for real-time communication, which powers a wide range of applications including instant messaging, presence, multi-party chat, voice and video calls, collaboration, lightweight middleware, content syndication, and generalized routing of XML data.

XMPP technologies are typically deployed using a client-server architecture. As a result, XMPP endpoints (often but not always controlled by human users) need to communicate through one or more servers. For example, the user 'juliet@capulet.lit' connects to the 'capulet.lit' server and the user 'romeo@montague.lit' connects to the 'montague.lit' server, but in order for Juliet to send a message to Romeo the message will be routed over her client-to-server connection with capulet.lit, over a server-to-server connection between 'capulet.lit' and 'montague.lit', and over Romeo's client-to-server connection with montague.lit. Although the XMPP-CORE specification requires support for Transport Layer Security to make it possible to encrypt all of these connections, when XMPP is deployed any of these connections might be unencrypted. Furthermore, even if the server-to-server connection is encrypted and both of the client-to-server connections are encrypted, the message would still be in the clear while processed by both the 'capulet.lit' and 'montague.lit' servers.

Thus, end-to-end ('e2e') encryption of traffic sent over XMPP is a desirable goal. Since 1999, the Jabber/XMPP developer community has experimented with several such technologies, including OpenPGP, S/MIME, and encrypted sessions. More recently, the community has explored the possibility of using Transport Layer Security (TLS) as the base technology for e2e encryption. In order to provide a foundation for deciding on a sustainable approach to e2e encryption, this document specifies a set of requirements that the ideal technology would meet.

This specification primarily addresses communications security ('commsec') between two parties, especially confidentiality, data integrity, and peer entity authentication. Communications security can be subject to a variety of attacks, which RFC 3552 divides into passive and active categories. In a passive attack, information is leaked (e.g., a passive attacker could read all of the messages that Juliet sends to Romeo). In an active attack, the attacker can add, modify, or delete messages between the parties, thus disrupting communications... Ideally, any technology for end-to-end encryption in XMPP could be extended to cover any of: One-to-one communication sessions between two 'online' entities, One-to-one messages that are not transferred in real time, One-to-many information broadcast, Many-to-many communication sessions among more than two entities. However, both one-to-many broadcast and many-to-many sessions are deemed out-of-scope for this document, and this document puts more weight on one-to-one communication sessions..."

See also: Cryptographic Key Management

Implementing User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 2.0
James Allan, Kelly Ford, Jeanne Spellman (eds), W3C Technical Report

Members of the W3C User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Group have published a First Public Working Draft for Implementing UAAG 2.0: A Guide to Understanding and Implementing User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and an updated version of of the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 2.0 specification. Comments on the two documents should be sent to the W3C public list by 16-April-2010.

The "User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 2.0" specification is part of a series of accessibility guidelines published by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). It provides guidelines for designing user agents that lower barriers to Web accessibility for people with disabilities. User agents include browsers and other types of software that retrieve and render Web content. A user agent that conforms to these guidelines will promote accessibility through its own user interface and through other internal facilities, including its ability to communicate with other technologies (especially assistive technologies). Furthermore, all users, not just users with disabilities, should find conforming user agents to be more usable.

In addition to helping developers of browsers and media players, the document will also benefit developers of assistive technologies because it explains what types of information and control an assistive technology may expect from a conforming user agent. Technologies not addressed directly by this document (e.g., technologies for braille rendering) will be essential to ensuring Web access for some users with disabilities.

The Working Draft for "Implementing UAAG 2.0" provides supporting information for the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 2.0. The document provides explanation of the intent of UAAG 2.0 success criteria, examples of implementation of the guidelines, best practice recommendations and additional resources for the guideline. It includes a new section supporting the definition of a user agent.

See also: the updated UAAG 2.0 specification

Don't Look Down: The Path to Cloud Computing is Still Missing a Few Steps
Rutrell Yasin, Government Computer News

This article narrates how government agencies are seeking to navigate issues of interoperability, data migrations, security, and standards in the context of Cloud Computing. The government defines cloud computing as an on-demand model for network access, allowing users to tap into a shared pool of configurable computing resources, such as applications, networks, servers, storage and services, that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service-provider interaction.

Momentum for cloud computing has been building during the past year, after the new [U.S.] administration trumpeted the approach as a way to derive greater efficiency and cost savings from information technology investments. But the journey to cloud computing infrastructures will take a few more years to unfold, federal CIOs and industry experts say. Issues of data portability among different cloud services, migration of existing data, security and the definition of standards for all of those areas are the missing rungs on the ladder to the clouds.

The Federal Cloud Computing Security Working Group, an interagency initiative, is working to develop the Government-Wide Authorization Program (GAP), which will establish a standard set of security controls and a common certification and accreditation program that will validate cloud computing providers...Cloud vendors need to implement multiple agency policies, which can translate into duplicative risk management processes and lead to inconsistent application of federal security requirements.

At the user level, there are challenges associated with access control and identity management,according to Doug Bourgeois, director of the Interior Department's National Business Center.. Organizations must extend their existing identity, access management, audit and monitoring strategies into the cloud. However, the problem is that existing enterprise systems might not easily integrate with the cloud... An agency cannot transfer data from a public cloud provider, such as Amazon or Google, and put it in an infrastructure-as-a-service platform that a private cloud provider develops for the agency and then exchange that data with another type of cloud provider; that type of data transfer is difficult because there are no overarching standards for operating in a hybrid environment...

IETF First Draft for Codec Requirements
Jean-Marc Valin (ed), IETF Internet Draft

Members of the IETF Internet Wideband Audio Codec (CODEC) Working Group have released an initial level -00 Internet Draft specification for Codec Requirements. Additional discussion (development process, evaluation, requirements conformance, intellectual property issues) is provided in the draft for Guidelines for the Codec Development Within the IETF. The IETF CODEC Working Group was formed recently to "to ensure the existence of a single high-quality audio codec that is optimized for use over the Internet and that can be widely implemented and easily distributed among application developers, service operators, and end users."

"According to reports from developers of Internet audio applications and operators of Internet audio services, there are no standardized, high-quality audio codecs that meet all of the following three conditions: (1) Are optimized for use in interactive Internet applications. (2) Are published by a recognized standards development organization (SDO) and therefore subject to clear change control. (3) Can be widely implemented and easily distributed among application developers, service operators, and end users. According to application developers and service operators, an audio codec that meets all three of these would: enable protocol designers to more easily specify a mandatory-to-implement codec in their protocols and thus improve interoperability; enable developers to more easily easily build innovative, interactive applications for the Internet; enable service operators to more easily deploy affordable, high-quality audio services on the Internet; and enable end users of Internet applications and services to enjoy an improved user experience.

The "Codec Requirements" specification provides requirements for an audio codec designed specifically for use over the Internet. The requirements attempt to address the needs of the most common Internet interactive audio transmission applications and to ensure good quality when operating in conditions that are typical for the Internet. These requirements address the quality, sampling rate, delay, bit-rate, and packet loss robustness. Other desirable codec properties are considered as well...

In-scope applications include: (1) Point to point calls—where point to point calls are voice over IP (VoIP) calls from two "standard" (fixed or mobile) phones, and implemented in hardware or software. (2) Conferencing, where conferencing applications that support multi-party calls have additional requirements on top of the requirements for point-to-point calls; conferencing systems often have higher-fidelity audio equipment and have greater network bandwidth available—especially when video transmission is involved. (3) Telepresence, where most telepresence applications can be considered to be essentially very high-quality video-conferencing environments, so all of the conferencing requirements also apply to telepresence. (4) Teleoperation, where teleoperation applications are similar to telepresence, with the exception that they involve remote physical interactions. (5) In-game voice chat, where the requirements are similar to those of conferencing, with the main difference being that narrowband compatibility is not necessary. (6) Live distributed music performances / Internet music lessons, and other applications, where live music requires extremely low end-to-end delay and is one of the most demanding application for interactive audio transmission.

See also: the IETF Internet Wideband Audio Codec (CODEC) Working Group Charter

Consensus Emerges for Key Web Application Standard
Stephen Shankland, CNET

"Browser makers, grappling with outmoded technology and a vision to rebuild the Web as a foundation for applications, have begun converging on a seemingly basic by very important element of cloud computing. That ability is called local storage, and the new mechanism is called Indexed DB. Indexed DB, proposed by Oracle and initially called WebSimpleDB, is largely just a prototype at this stage, not something Web programmers can use yet. But already it's won endorsements from Microsoft, Mozilla, and Google, and together, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome account for more than 90 percent of the usage on the Net today.

Standardization could come: advocates have worked Indexed DB into the considerations of the W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium that standardizes HTML and other Web technologies. In the W3C discussions, Indexed DB got a warm reception from Opera, the fifth-ranked browser.

It may sound perverse, but the ability to store data locally on a computer turns out to be a very important part of the Web application era that's really just getting under way. The whole idea behind cloud computing is to put applications on the network, liberating them from being tied to a particular computer, but it turns out that the computer still matters, because the network is neither fast nor ubiquitous. Local storage lets Web programmers save data onto computers where it's convenient for processors to access. That can mean, for example, that some aspects of Gmail and Google Docs can work while you're disconnected from the network. It also lets data be cached on the computer for quick access later. The overall state of the Web application is maintained on the server, but stashing data locally can make cloud computing faster and more reliable..."

An editor's draft of the W3C specification Indexed Database API is available online: " User agents need to store large numbers of objects locally in order to satisfy off-line data requirements of Web applications. 'Webs Storage' [10-September-2009 WD] is useful for storing pairs of keys and their corresponding values. However, it does not provide in-order retrieval of keys, efficient searching over values, or storage of duplicate values for a key. This specification provides a concrete API to perform advanced key-value data management that is at the heart of most sophisticated query processors. It does so by using transactional databases to store keys and their corresponding values (one or more per key), and providing a means of traversing keys in a deterministic order. This is often implemented through the use of persistent B-tree data structures that are considered efficient for insertion and deletion as well as in-order traversal of very large numbers of data records.

See also: the latest editor's version for Indexed Database API

Document Format Standards and Patents
Alex Brown, Blog

This post is part of an ongoing series. It expands on Item 9 of 'Reforming Standardisation in JTC 1', which proposed Ten Recommendations for Reform, and Item 9 was "Clarify intellectual property policies: International Standards must have clearly stated IP policies, and avoid unacceptable patent encumbrances."

Historically, patents have been a fraught topic with an uneasy co-existence with standards. Perhaps (within JTC 1) one of the most notorious recent examples surrounded the JPEG Standard and, in part prompted by such problems there are certainly many people of good will wanting better management of IP in standards. Judging by some recent development in document format standardisation, it seems probable that this will be the area where progress can next be made...

The Myth of Unencumbered Technology: Given the situation we are evidently in, it is clear that no technology is safe. The brazen claims of corporations, the lack of diligence by the US Patent Office, and the capriciousness of courts means that any technology, at any time, may suddenly become patent encumbered. Technical people - being logical and reasonable - often make the mistake of thinking the system is bound by logic and reason; they assume that because they can see 'obvious' prior art, then it will apply; however as the case of the i4i patent vividly illustrates, this is simply not so.

While the 'broken stack' of patents is beyond repair by any single standards body, at the very least the correct application of the rules can make the situation for users of document format standards more transparent and certain. In the interests of making progess in this direction, it seems a number of points need addressing now. (1) Users should be aware that the various covenants and promises being pointed-to by the US vendors need not be relevant to them as regards standards use. Done properly, International Standardization can give a clearer and stronger guarantee of license availability—without the caveats, interpretable points and exit strategies these vendors' documents invariably have. (2) In particular it should be of concern to NBs that there is no entry in JTC 1's patent database for OOXML (there is for DIS 29500, its precursor text, a ZRAND promise from Microsoft); there is no entry whatsoever for ODF... (3) In the case of the i4i patent, one implementer has already commented that implementing CustomXML in its entirety may run the risk of infringement—and this is probably, after all, why Microsoft patched Word in the field to remove some aspects of its CustomXML support).... (4) When declaring their patents to JTC 1, patent holders are given an option whether to make a general declaration about the patents that apply to a standard, or to make a particular declaration about each and every itemized patent which applies. I believe NBs should be insisting that patent holder enumerate precisely the patents they hold which they claim apply.. There is obviously much to do, and I am hoping that at the forthcoming SC 34 meetings in Stockholm this work can begin...

See also: blog article Part 1


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