Standard mechanisms to orchestrate business processes in Web services applications will have to wait until next year for final OASIS approval. Amendments to enable human interactions as part of this technology will wait even longer.
Version 2.0 of Web Services Business Process Execution Language, usually referred to as BPEL, is being delayed until the first half of 2006 while technologists at OASIS continue sorting through approximately three dozen issues, whittled down from a list that had totaled around 230.
Considered critical for applications such as transactional and B2B systems, the XML-based BPEL technology has wide industry support. Microsoft, IBM, and BEA Systems introduced it in 2002. Sun Microsystems, which initially resisted the effort, was one of many vendors to back it later.
Preliminary BPEL 1.1 and 2.0 technologies already are in use in products such as Oracle BPEL Process Manager and IBM WebSphere Process Server. But BPEL itself has yet to be formally adopted by OASIS as an official specification. This adoption would serve to make it a de facto industry standard.
"What's happening is the normal standardization process. We have a large number of companies represented on the technical committee," said Diane Jordan, program director for emerging software standards at IBM and a co-chairperson of the WSBPEL Technical Committee at OASIS.
Although IBM officials declined to characterize the planned 2006 finalization as a delay, officials at BEA and Oracle called it just that.
"I think the expectations have been rather high that we would have been done by the end of the year, but at the current pace that we've been working, it's looking like Q1 or Q2 of next year when we would have a final spec," said Tony de la Lama, vice president and unit director for integration products at BEA.
"There's blocking and tackling pretty much going on right now," with issues being resolved, de la Lama added.
BPEL has functions such as language constructs to enable if-then-else statements for the 2.0 version. Dynamic, parallel invocation of services also is an important addition, for adapting the number of steps in a process based on the number of partners participating in a transaction, according to IBM.
Version 2.0 also improves the way that Web services are used to call out to partner links to enable more flexibility. But issues such as merging and creating documents still need to be addressed, BEA officials said. Error handling also is a focus.
"There's a couple of issues still being resolved and people just want to take the time to do those things right," said Edwin Khodabakchian, vice president of software development at Oracle, which is participating in the BPEL 2.0 effort.
But an important human interaction component to BPEL allowing, for example, a bank manager to approve a loan in a banking application, will not be in BPEL 2.0. This component is being proposed for a future work, said Dieter Koenig, a senior technical staff member for IBM workflow products. IBM has written two white papers on the concept, which has been referred to as "BPEL4People."