Developer Product Briefs

WSIT Components Are Made Available

Sun's Web Services Interoperability Technology is a 2006 JavaOne Conference-opening highlight. Sun and Microsoft move another step forward to fulfill the promise of interoperability.

WSIT Components Are Made Available
Sun and Microsoft showcase Web Services Interoperability Technology as the next step in simplifying development for cross-platform environments.
by Terrence O'Donnell

JavaOne, May 16, 2006

Another big step toward the fulfillment of Web services interoperability between the Java platform and the .NET Framework marked the opening of the 2006 JavaOne conference in San Francisco. Sun Microsystems Inc. along with Microsoft Corp. announced the availability of a set of WS-* components, called Web Services Interoperability Technology (WSIT), that is focused primarily on security, messaging, quality of service, and metadata support. Both companies shared the stage during the conference's opening keynote session to give attendees a brief demo of the technology.

Available currently in early-access form, WSIT will be implemented in several different Java Enterprise System products (Java Enterprise System is Sun's branded middleware stack for software). Sun plans to deliver the WSIT functionality throughout the year, and ultimately intends to standardize it on the Java platform too. The project is also part of the open source GlassFish project that is hosted on Java.net.

"These technologies were developed through close collaboration by Sun and Microsoft engineering teams and represent pretty tangible evidence that we are in fact making significant progress in working together to resolve interoperability issues for customers," said Ed Julson, director of engineering for Web services technologies at Sun. "This is very much a customer-driven perspective. We have a lot of customers that have both Sun and Microsoft environments in play, and we think it's a major step forward, specifically in context of Web services technologies, to try to bridge that gap."

Julson and Kyle Young, program manager in the Connected Systems Division at Microsoft, noted that the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) is a significant interoperability framework on the Microsoft side that implements a wide range of the WS-* specifications, which are Web services specifications that go well beyond just the basic messaging layer and get up into a higher level of functionality around quality of service, security, metadata management, and some extensions to the messaging layer.

"We'd like to make sure that the Java platform and that Java developers in general can write service endpoints that work right out of the box with that very important direction in terms of where Microsoft is going," Julson said. "We focused on a number of technologies and specifications in the WSIT implementation that align with the Windows Communication Foundation."

The set of specifications included in WSIT comprise:

  • WS-Reliable Messaging
  • WS-Coordination
  • WS-Transactions
  • WS-Security
  • WS-Trust
  • WS-Secure Conversation
  • WS-Security Policy
  • WS-Policy
  • WS-Metadata exchange
  • WSDL
  • XML Schema
  • WS-Addressing
  • SOAP
  • Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism (MTOM)

Julson said security is among the key areas in which this specification set was implemented in the Java domain. This focus means the ability not just to digitally sign or encrypt messages—which is more or less the focus of the work to date around message local security—but to go beyond that and extend security into the domain of trust to enable creating collaborations between business partners and between service endpoints, where there are trusted connections.

"Security can be defined as a set of policies. We're trying to add this functionality in ways that make it very simple for developers to expand the capabilities of their existing Web services infrastructure, but do it in a way that's largely transparent to the application," Julson said.

Staying the Course
"The exciting part of this news is that it's a proof point of a journey we started some time ago and that we're now reaching a proof point with products that are available—both platforms have products available for developers," Young said. "One of the promises when we began the WS-* efforts, or the Web services efforts, early on was the promise of interoperability between different platforms and different products. So we see that as an enabler. There's a set of WS-* specifications, and the result of that effort becomes the tangible enabler. The other enabler is then moving that forward to the point we're at now, where we have very distinct and concentrated efforts between two companies, Microsoft and Sun, to actually make it work. It takes these enabling specifications and commits significant effort toward interoperability."

"From Sun's perspective, we've just gone through a major refresh of Java in terms of the platform that we're releasing soon, and we've introduced new APIs for Web services as part of that," Julson said. According to Julson, the JAX-WS and JAXB APIs will serve as the foundation for delivering WSIT to Java developers. Instead of churning out a bunch of new APIs, Sun will build on JAX-WS and JAXB, and all the functionality will be mostly transparent to Java developers.

Both Julson and Young emphasized that the working relationship between Microsoft and Sun was key to getting the project to its current status, despite the sheer magnitude of the project itself being one of the biggest obstacles to getting it started.

"I could hand three different developers from three different companies identical specifications and ask them to go implement them," Julson said. "At the end of the day when those implementations are done, chances are pretty good that they would not interoperate with each other. The reality is that the specification is nothing more than a piece of paper, and it's a piece of paper that's open to interpretation on the part of the person doing the implementation.

"What makes interoperability work is the process as you do the implementation, to continuously be checking back and forth with each other: 'Did I interpret this in the right way? Do the services points that we have work? If they don't work, which side is the bug on? Is it our implementation? Is it your implementation? How do we get aligned?' If you don't have that kind of working relationship, it's very difficult to get interoperability to work at the end of the day. We've been effectively doing that because we do have that kind of working relationship."

"One of the things we needed to work through was to get to the point where we had the right engineers working with the right engineers on each side," Young said. "Those engineers were sufficiently far along in respective implementations that we began to ask the right questions and give out the right answers and get to the point where messages were actually flowing across the wire. Getting to that point was kind of a turning point in ensuring that our products were interoperable."

See for Yourself
WSIT was tested extensively with WCF and provides a reliable way for Java technology-based applications to integrate and interoperate with the .NET Framework. Sun plans to support WSIT in the next version of the Sun Java System Application Server; developers using the Java EE SDK 5.0 or Sun developer tools and technologies to leverage WSIT can get support through Sun's new Developer Expert Assistance service program. Julson said that although it will take some time to align product road maps, it should be a period of 12–18 months to flow the interoperability policies through product lines.

In addition to a short demo during the opening JavaOne keynote session, the two companies are hosting an expanded, one-hour version of that demo to give attendees the opportunity to "look under the hood" and see what the technology is all about and how it works. Also, demonstrations of products exhibiting the point technologies are available to attendees on the pavilion floor.

Another important component of the announcement is that Sun released simultaneously a NetBeans 5.5 plug-in for WSIT that will give developers the tooling help necessary for developing cross-platform Web services. More information is available at the NetBeans Web site.

About the Author
Terrence O'Donnell is editor of Java Pro and senior editor of FTPOnline.

About the Author

Terrence O'Donnell is managing editor of Java Pro.

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