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Let's Make a Deal: Java and .Net Hold Hands Over Web Services

Posted by hiheiss on May 18, 2006 at 8:08 PM PDT

At JavaOne earlier this week, I took in TS-5540, “Making Java/.Net Technology Based Web Services Interoperability Real” with Sun’s Arun Gupta and Microsoft’s Kirill Gavrylyuk. Sun and Microsoft developers have been meeting at “Plugfests” in Microsoft’s test facilities in Redmond, Washington, where they identify bugs and work to assure interoperability in their web services code. Both have strong customer-driven motivations for removing interoperability barriers between their web services stacks. The collegial environment is reported to have been refreshing and productive. Arun Gupta’s blog has interesting comments:

So here were two developers from corporations that once viewed each other as enemies offering a joint presentation. Economic necessity makes strange bedfellows.

Gupta enunciated their basic message: “In this talk, we intend to show you that enterprise web services are real,” said Gupta. “We also intend to show you how web services enable enterprise integration scenarios within and across business boundaries.”

Web services are well adopted on both Java and .Net platforms. Recent developments in Microsoft’s Windows Communication Foundation, which is Microsoft’s web services platform, and the open source Glassfish communities’ compatible app server have made interoperability a reality. They are not just talking about a promising future.

Gavrylyuk and Gupta presented a scenario with a Sun-managed retail quote service which gets quotes from a service running in a homogeneous environment. It gets quotes from a variety of client services, some of which run in a .NET Microsoft environment. It also gets information from a GlassFish client. In both cases they use secure and reliable communication.

They began with consumer integration. Suppose consumers rely on the Sun-managed quote service that uses WCF and Glassfish clients. How to achieve data interoperability? The two managed environments establish what is called a brokered trust relationship through obtaining tokens from STS, Secure Token Service, to authenticate their interactions.

Their presentation next focused on the challenges of integrating both businesses and consumers and the road map for the future. The key issue is establishing a contract through data structures. When it comes to XML schema interoperability, they summed up their advice to developers in the memorable acronym, KISS: Keep Interoperable Schemas Simple. They recommend a simple set of de-facto profiles: xs:sequence, xs:element, wrapped arrays, etc.
There are functional and established complex schemas available and perhaps necessary in scenarios, but Gupta recommended caution in using them.

Schemas should be used as data type descriptions, not as validation mechanisms. Avoid complexity unless it’s required, and avoid schema constructs that do not map well onto programming languages.

They turned to the issue of binary attachments which Gupta acknowledged has had a “bumpy road over the last few years”. xs:base64Binary is interoperable, but comes with a high processing cost and 30% extra message size.

The industry has fallen into two camps: one has gone with SOAP attachments, while the other adopted DIME (Direct Internet Message Encapsulation). Both push the binary data outside of the SOAP envelope. SwA, which is SOAP with attachments, has low interoperability, with attachments outside the SOAP body, and suffers from lack of composition with other web services protocols. DIME has the same problems as SwA.

So what to do? MTOM (Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism) comes to the rescue. MTOM works in a simple manner. It is conceptually like a SOAP envelope, but just before the SOAP envelope hits the wire the binary part of the body is serialized as a separate MIME part.

Integrating Businesses

The key to business integration, not surprisingly, is reliable, secure messaging. With information moving over the web between services, there is a danger of information getting lost and a need for reliable security. Quote service reliability requirements include reliable transfer of messages end-to-end, assurances that orders are not duplicated and secure composition.

They then presented a demo of reliable messaging in which a .NET wholesale service was interacting with a Sun managed Java retail quote service in a reliable and secure manner.

They turned to the issue of WS-Trust and Security Token Services, which “arbitrate” trust through providing universal token/claim conversion, and support for arbitrary trust patterns in a decentralized manner -- anyone can be STS. They discussed Security Policy and Metadata Exchange whereby
services specify what claims types are required and consumers dynamically obtain tokens through the trust chain.


Finally, Gavrylyuk discussed Windows Vista Web Services, and the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF -- a.k.a. Indigo) which offers a runtime for building distributed applications. “InfoCards” visualizes a user’s digital identity, Active Directory Federation Services provide an infrastructure for identity and access. Windows Remote Management enables interoperable system management, and something called Web Services For Devices helps with Web Services-based devices interaction.

That's all for now, folks. Bare bones of a technical session but hopefully of some value.

For more meatier or vegy (if you're a vegetarian) details:

Windows Communication Foundation (a.k.a. Indigo)

GlassFish Community

Web Services Interoperability Portals

Web Services Interoperability Blogs

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