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WS-ReliableMessaging creeps forward

In March 2003 BIMT published a draft specification for WS-ReliableMessaging, which describes a protocol that allows messages to be delivered reliably between distributed applications. Peter Abrahams of gives the latest news about the specification and how it compares to WS-Reliability.

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WS-ReliableMessaging creeps forward
In March 2003 BEA, IBM, Microsoft and Tibco (BIMT) published a draft specification for WS-ReliableMessaging which describes a protocol that allows messages to be delivered reliably between distributed applications in the presence of software component, system, or network failures. This came out a few weeks after a draft covering the same problem space from Oracle, Sun, Sonic, Fujitsu, Hitachi and NEC and others called WS-Reliability.

In January WS-Reliability was published, and then offered to OASIS in February to be turned into a standard and a technical committee has been set up.

Now, in March 2004, BIMT have published an updated version of their specification. The updates are based on the feedback from a workshop in July and interoperability workshop in October. So after a year what is new? Unfortunately it is difficult to tell because there is no document that lists the changes. Having eyeballed the old and the new there appears to be very little change at all. Some of the terminology has changed for example in 2003 the original sender of a message was called 'RM Source' and in 2004 is called 'Sender', not earth shattering but probably reflecting a level of generalization which will allow different messaging protocols to work together. However the general architecture and message flows seem to be identical.

Was the wait of a year worth it? Well the validation was useful and the interoperability testing proved that the specification is robust. But the problem is that there are still two competing specifications and the year wait has just entrenched the position. Further BIMT still have not said when, or maybe even if, they will propose the specification to a standards body.

The two specifications are not hugely different, in fact they both started from the same providence, and it would hugely benefit the industry as a whole if they came together. BIMT includes IBM and Microsoft and is therefore the commercially stronger and could make their specification the de facto standard. Also in my humble opinion, as I have consistently stated, the BIMT specification is the more elegant and complete.

Please, can we get it to a standards body very quickly so that heads can be bashed together and a single standard agreed upon? Vendors always see if they can get some competitive advantage out of standards, they can not be blamed for this and hopefully the process ensures that the eventual standards are well thought through and robust. However the great strides that we have made because of the base Web services standards (SOAP, WSDL, XML and UDDI) show that single standards are good for everyone in the medium term and conflicting standards would be disastrous in the long term.

Copyright 2004. Originally published by, reprinted with permission. provides IT decision makers with free daily e-mails containing news analysis, member-only discussion forums, free research, technology spotlights and free on-line consultancy. To register for a free e-mail subscription, click here.

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