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Microsoft unveil new specification for web services architecture

Microsoft have released a new set of specification for XML-based web services, building on existing SOAP, WSDL and UDDI specifications to provide additional standards for security and message routing.

The Global XML Web Services Architecture "provides a set of principles and guidelines for advancing the protocols and file formats of today's XML Web services to more complex and sophisticated tasks" according to a Microsoft announcement.

The new specification represents a step along the road to a complete architecture for web-based services outlined by Microsoft and IBM at the W3C Web Services Workshop in April 2001. According to a Microsoft statement, the new specifications "will be available for a review period and then submitted to appropriate standards bodies."

The specifications cover four areas:

  • WS-Security provides a security language for Web services. WS-Security enhances SOAP messaging with credential exchange, message integrity, and message confidentiality. WS-Security provides a general-purpose mechanism for associating licenses with messages. Message integrity is provided using the W3C XML Signature specification to ensure that messages are transmitted without modifications. Similarly, message confidentiality uses the W3C XML Encrypt specification to keep portions of a SOAP message confidential.
  • WS-License outlines how existing digital credentials and their associated trust semantics can be securely associated with SOAP messages.
  • WS-Routing is a "simple, stateless, SOAP-based protocol for routing SOAP messages in an asynchronous manner over a variety of transports like TCP, UDP, and HTTP." WS-Routing allows the path of a SOAP message (including the response path) to be described directly within the SOAP envelope. It supports one-way messaging, two-way messaging such as request/response and peer-to-peer conversations, and long running dialogs.
  • WS-Referral is a protocol that "enables the routing strategies used by SOAP nodes in a message path to be dynamically configured". WS-Referral provides a mechanism to dynamically configure SOAP nodes in a message path to define how they should handle a SOAP message. In conjunction with WS-Routing, this protocol allows for more detailed specification of how a SOAP message should be delivered.
In the domain of technologies for teaching and learning, the specifications could have a strong impact on the types of architectures used within managed learning environments. The adoption of standard security and encryption mechanisms in SOAP may make it easier to build loosely coupled systems without compromising security. Likewise the new specifications for routing of messages may go some way towards improving the performance of web-based services, assisting in the development of message brokering services.

More information on the announcement can be found at XML CoverPages

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