BEA has submitted a B2B transaction specification called Business Transaction Protocol to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) that threatens to make redundant the XAML (Transaction Authority Markup Language) initiative backed by Bowstreet, IBM, HP, Oracle and Sun Microsystems. The aim is for BTP to become the accepted protocol for facilitating B2B transactions over the Internet. BTP is an XML-based protocol that attempts to manage long-term business transactions as an exchange of "loosely coupled conversations among trading partners," according to BEA CTO and chair of the OASIS BTP committee Rocky Stewart.
The XAML initiative was announced last October, and little has been seen or heard of it since. According to Stewart, BEA went to the XAML consortium at the time of launch and asked to participate but was refused. It was then that BEA decided to approach OASIS, which writes specifications for e-business, with BTP. "We felt that any transaction protocol should be devised in an open environment, rather than an exclusive club," said Stewart.
BTP is seeded in and extracted from BEA's Collaborate B2B integration platform -- it's part of the extensible open Collaborate protocol (XOCP). Stewart claims the BTP committee is open to all, and offers BEA no proprietary advantage. Nonetheless, if successful, it will show the influence BEA wields in the development community and give the company a head start on its application server competitors -- including IBM WebSphere and Sun iPlanet -- which is presumably why BEA was refused admittance to the XAML consortium in the first place.
A standard such as BTP or XAML is needed to enable Web-based business transactions that allow multiple organizations to coordinate their operations in order to handle the basic elements of a B2B trade. Simply speaking, BTP keeps track of what has been done and helps with accountability and managing transactions, explains Stewart. It enables businesses to expose or advertise their transactional capabilities through their Web services. Such a function is essential if B2B and B2C transaction activity among multiple partners is going to become a reality.
Of course the battle lines are being drawn for a dogfight for supremacy in Internet services, as among others, Sun with ONE, HP with eSpeak and Microsoft with .Net look to establish mindshare and customers for their Web services strategies.
The BTP committee's initial requirement document is expected in the next few days, with a first specification draft expected to follow a month later. Stewart said the committee is on track to deliver a final specification at the end of July. Ironically, given its initial resistance, Stewart claims Sun is one of the major supporters of BTP, with Microsoft and Interwoven among 50 companies adding their names to the supporters' list.
With a mixed bag of forthcoming XML standards, Stewart said BTP will work in conjunction with enabling technologies such as Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web Services Description Language (WSDL), and Electronic Business XML (ebXML) to enable B2B and the new world of Web services.
In particular, BTP builds on ebXML -- registration and repository, collaborative partner agreement and message services -- and claims to be independent of transport protocols and messaging frameworks.
Application server vendors, including BEA, IBM and Sun, are looking to add value to the software stack with products that provide users the basic infrastructure necessary to create B2B relationships. Supporting and proposing standards such as ebXML and BTP, as well the nascent Java-based integration architecture called Java Connection Architecture (JCA), is necessary to deliver software as "Web services." JCA promises to eliminate the headache of updating adapters with each new version of an application, according to Stewart.
In making their application servers a more comprehensive platform by adding these functions to a standard library, the vendors claim to be giving systems integrators the means of building their own set of customized applications and giving independent software vendors a way to free themselves of spending valuable R&D on these chores. Of course in return, the application server vendors get larger license fees as more people use the same platform to develop their e-business. It also ties more people into WebLogic.
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