Tibco bets on web services

Tibco Software announced is upgrading its BusinessWorks enterprise service bus to leverage the web services BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) 2.0 specification, yesterday.

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Tibco Software announced is upgrading its BusinessWorks enterprise service bus to leverage the web services BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) 2.0 specification, yesterday.

This makes Tibco’s the first ESB to back the OASIS specification, the company said. The new ESB, which has the version number 5.4, also features expanded security capabilities and 64-bit platform support. Tibco categorises BusinessWorks as a suite of technologies constituting an ESB.

As an ESB, BusinessWorks can be used in enterprise SOA deployments. It provides such functions as mediation of messages, in which a SOAP message, for example, could be received over HTTP and sent back out via Java Message Service. Full-scale orchestration for specifying process flows for activities also is enabled.

“The biggest single addition [in version 5.4] is support for BPEL 2.0, which is the first standard version of BPEL,” said Rourke McNamara, senior product manager for SOA at Tibco.

BPEL provides a common framework for orchestration of processes, akin to how SQL is used in working with databases, according to Tibco. It features a language for specifying business-process behaviour based on web services.

Version 1.1 of BPEL, which has been available for deployment, was never formally ratified as an OASIS standard, a status soon to be bestowed on the 2.0 version of the specification, McNamara said.

“Tibco didn't support 1.1. We actually were holding out for a standardised version of BPEL,” McNamara said.

BPEL 2.0, or WS-BPEL, which is the official OASIS acronym, is undergoing a public review period. It could be approved as an official OASIS standard by 1 April 2007, an OASIS representative said.

With BPEL 2.0, the use of global variables in web services calls is no longer required. Global variables added complexity to BPEL because they were visible throughout a system rather than just where they were needed, McNamara said. Examples of variables include a customer processing ID or a response code from a credit check.

Other improvements in BPEL 2.0 include the addition of key looping constructs and extension capabilities to add a user-defined function that was not stipulated in the specification, Tibco said.

BPEL leverages XML to define orchestration of multiple web services for business processes, said Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink, in an email. Version 2.0 boosts support for XPath and XSLT. But BPEL is not without its shortcomings, he said.

“The problem with the BPEL spec is that it still doesn’t support the human aspects of workflow well, and it approaches composition of services from a programmatic perspective, leading some to believe that BPEL is simply another way of coding processes using XML rather than a programming language,” Schmelzer said. More work will be required to make BPEL more declarative to support ad hoc processes and more abstract choreographies, he said.

But a BusinessWorks user said he looked forward to BPEL 2.0. “It’ll help us standardise on a notation within all of the tools that we use,” said the user, Steve Polaski, director of IT enterprise architecture at Qualcomm.

The company uses BusinessWorks for transformation and mapping functions and also as a web services container. “We’ve written some SOAP services that actually execute in BusinessWorks rather than in [an application server such as IBM] WebSphere or Oracle Application Server,” Polaski said.

Aside from BPEL 2.0 support, BusinessWorks 5.4 includes the capability to defer to an external security authorization mechanism such as Entrust, Netegrity and SiteMinder. Also featured is visibility into atomic transactions for improved transactional monitoring.

Native 64-bit operating systems supported by version 5.4 include Solaris x86, Solaris 10, HP-UX, and AIX. The new Windows Vista OS is not yet supported, however.

Also supported in the 5.4 edition are the Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Oracle 10g R2 databases as well as Apache Tomcat 5.x and Jakarta 3.x Java technologies.

Tibco BusinessWorks 5.4 prices start at $75,000 (£38,453).

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