The IT Strategy Letter
A digest of Doug Kaye's weblogs for the week ending September 3, 2002 (Subscribe)


Web Services Strategies
Web Hosting Strategies
Doug's Media and Speaking Appearances
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Web Services Strategies

Web-Services Transactions. Writing a new chapter, Transactions, Business Processes and Workflow, I caught up on some of the newer related documents in the pile on my desk:

  • Business Processes: Understanding BPEL4WS by Sanjiva Weerawarana and Francisco (Paco) Curbera, both of IBM, is a good introduction.
  • Automating Business Processes and Transactions in Web Services by James Snell, also of IBM, covers the broader spectrum of transactions in general, along with the WS-Coordination and WS-Transaction protocols in addition to BPEL4WS.
  • In A Novel Approach for Modeling Business Process Definitions (a 16-page .doc file) Jean-Jacques Dubray of Eigner presents the BPMI perspective on extracting process-oriented logic from applications. [You can't automate a multi-party workflow if the business logic is trapped inside the apps.] He breaks down four levels of business processes including enterprise processes, executable processes, business-process collaborations and individual tasks.
Posted Monday, September 02, 2002 2:56:57 PM   

If you've been confused about the business-process segment of the web-services protocol stack, the recent announcement by IBM, Microsoft and BEA of BPEL4WS only made things worse. After reading, asking questions, scratching my head, and reading some more, I think I've got it.

Some highlights and explanations:

  • XLANG and WSFL are gone, replaced by BPEL4WS.
  • The BPMI.ORG stack--supported by a very large number of members, most notably Sun--is based on XML, but predates SOAP. That means it works on top of other protocols, but doesn't take advantage of SOAP's support. The BPEL4WS stack utilizes, and is locked to, SOAP.
Thanks to Dave Wright at Microsoft for clearing my cobwebs, and to Peter Drayton for posting links to the newly-published specs.
Posted Thursday, August 22, 2002 6:59:30 PM 

As expected, I received some excellent comments on the above posting from readers of my weblogs:

Jean-Jacques Dubray (chief architect at Eigner, author of Professional ebXML Foundations, and a co-creator of writes:

I often get asked the questions: where is this whole Business Process Modeling (BPM) thing going? what is it good for? why people think it should be based on open technologies? Here is my one page answer. In one sentence I would say that the goal is that infrastructure providers such as Microsoft and IBM are working towards delivering an application model which will enable a complete separation of the process-oriented business logic from the model and presentation oriented business logic.
Dave Wright (Microsoft .NET Architecture Evangelist, who knows a lot more than that title might suggest) points out:
  • BTP and WSCI both compare against WS-Transaction and WS-Coordination; that is together they compare, but separately the don’t map as cleanly.
  • WS-Transaction defines 2 "transaction types", one for synchronous ACID transactions, one for "business activities." BTP compares (mostly) to the former, and WSCI (mostly) to the latter.
  • In understanding the difference between a "business activity" as defined by WS-Transaction and a business process as specified in BPEL4WS, understand that BPEL4WS (and BPML) are design to specify the "internals" of a workflow, and WS-Transaction and WSCI are designed to specify the "public behavior" of workflow endpoints as they cohere in larger, cross-organizational business processes. So WS-Transaction and WSCI are all about defining the distributed eventing and notification model that is responsible for flow control as it passes across boundaries that are separately controlled by processing monitors that would be executing BPEL4WS or BPML schedules.
  • WS-Coordination defines a lifecycle model for instantiating and executing distributed transactions at runtime: creating a shared transaction context, registering participants within the context and helping participants map themselves to various WS-Transaction protocols at various stages.
Posted Monday, September 02, 2002 2:04:06 PM   

Web Services: Is the End Near? From the the XML Web Services One conference in Boston:

  • Don Box, now an architect at Microsoft, said the "protocol work is starting to wind down, the infrastructure is catching up with protocols and it's time to start thinking about applications."
  • Robert Sutor, IBM's director of e-business standards strategy, said he believes the industry has about another six-to-nine months of Web services standardization work to do and then another couple of years to focus on applications and implementing the standards.
  • "We needed a replacement for DCOM, so XML Web services is the way we went," said Box.
  • Box also said that SOAP 1.3 is a bad idea because the specification covers all the necessary functionality for a SOAP implementation. "SOAP 1.2 should be the end of the line."
[Source: eWeek]
Posted Thursday, August 29, 2002 10:12:43 AM  

Web Services in California Government. "Michael Clark, who works for California's Department of Social Services wrote me with a wonderful story of using XML to link multiple government systems." Read why Michael used XML-RPC instead of SOAP. [Source: Phil Windley]
Posted Thursday, August 29, 2002 9:59:54 AM   

(Re)solving Security Confusion. On August 26, W3C and OASIS held a joint session to try and clear up some of the confusion regarding web-services security protocols and standards. OASIS has posted the slides from some of the presentations. [Source: Scott Loftesness]
Posted Wednesday, August 28, 2002 10:59:19 AM 

Web Hosting Strategies

Phil Windley Reviews My Book. "This is the most complete collection of information about hosting I've ever seen." Phil is the CIO of the Office of the Governor for the State of Utah, and publishes one of the best IT-oriented weblogs.
Posted Wednesday, August 28, 2002 10:03:15 PM   

RDS Moves to Rackshack. Like so many of my web-hosting consulting clients, my concerns over the financial and technical stability of my former web-hosting service led me to find a new vendor to host and a few other domains and projects. Based on Mike Prettejohn's comments about Rackshack's low-cost dedicated servers, I thought I'd give them a try. I went for their lowest-cost offer of a dedicated box with an Intel Celeron 1.3GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 60GB hard drive, 400GB monthly transfer, RedHat Linux and Ensim Webppliance: $99/month and a $99 setup-fee. This is an entirely do-it-yourself deal. You get a ready-to-roll server, but from then on it's all yours. Rackshack will reboot the box if you kill it, but that's about it. I signed up on-line, and had access to the fully provisioned box within minutes. Not a single glitch.

It's already been an interesting experience for me. Although I've been in IT for 28 years, I've spent virtually all of that time as an executive. (The last time I had a title below VP was in 1978.) I did some major systems-level coding in the early days (writing compilers, operating systems and protocol implementations), but very little during the past ten years or so. And I've never been a sysadmin. I've always had the luxury of someone else to turn to in order to "fix the box." Now, on a small scale, it's all up to me.

After asking around for the best books on RedHat Linux and Apache and a quick trip to the bookstore, I went to work setting things up the way I wanted them: Perl scripts for forms, Big Brother for site monitoring, MRTG for graphing traffic, plus hardening the box and applying the latest security patches. I ran into the usual Unix/Linux problems such as getting the permissions and ownerships right and having to tweak the Apache directives--a little trickier in the virtual-host config, particularly given the Ensim Webppliance manager that thinks it's in control of everything.

I probably would have begged for help (or mercy) were it not for one thing: the Rackshack chat forum. Free to members, this IRC gathering is available 24x7. Even at 3am on a Sunday morning, there was someone on line to answer my questions. Although the official Rackshack proposition implies very little support, I've actually found the support I've received in the chat room from Rackshack staff over the past week, superior to that for which many of my high-end clients pay big bucks.

True, I've still got to do all the hands-on work myself--it's not a managed server--but given that I'm willing to do that (and sort of enjoying it :-)), this has turned out to be an excellent choice so far.

[Rackshack is not a client, and I have no other relationship with them.]
Posted Monday, September 02, 2002 11:05:16 AM 

Managing Your Hosting Service Provider. has a list of 25 bullet points excerpted from my first book. "Based on Doug Kaye's classic book titled Strategies for Web Hosting and Managed Services, the following key points are intended to create user interest in effectively managing relationship with their MSPs and hosting service providers."
Posted Sunday, August 25, 2002 5:26:10 PM 

Third-Party Auditing for Corporate Clients. "Earlier this month, the Intermedia/Digex network experienced a complete network shutdown. For the first nine hours of the outage, network accessibility ranged from zero percent to 69 percent. Such an event indicates that the risk of a network outage is always a real possibility...For this reason, corporate clients should always elect to contract the use of a third party auditing firm to monitor their service provider's network connections for service-level agreement compliance." [Rawlson O'Neil King, The Web Host Industry Review]
Posted Friday, August 23, 2002 10:51:31 AM 

You (Don't Even) Get What You Pay For. Owners of 2.5 million web pages hosted for free by the now-defunct Talk City, can't retrieve copies of their sites. This includes customers who used Talk City via wholesalers such as MSN. Customers of Excite@Home and online photo site PhotoPoint also lost e-mail or photographs when those companies closed shop earlier this year. No matter how large or small your site may be, always keep your own backups. Your vendor's backups are to restore your site after a catastrophe. They won't protect your intellectual property.
Posted Thursday, August 22, 2002 1:52:29 PM 

Corporate Customers Seek Financially Viable Complex Hosts. Rawlson King writes on The Web Host Industry Review, "The current fiscal constraints afflicting the U.S. economy will continue to cripple notable players in the Web hosting industry. Without the ability to raise capital on open equity markets, many firms are dependent strictly upon their respective cash flows to finance their operations."
Posted Wednesday, August 21, 2002 1:49:16 PM 

Doug's Appearances

Web Services Reality Check: A Roundtable Discussion
Internet World Fall 2002
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York City
October 2, 2002

Hear from a variety of web-service vendors and their customers as they discuss how web services will change the way we do business forever. Discuss the benefits of online services including fast ROI, low TCO, no software implementation or maintenance costs, updates and upgrades in real-time, increase in employee productivity and the pros and cons of Web service products.

Moderator: Doug Kaye, RDS
Panelists: Annrai O'Toole, Executive Chairman, Cape Clear; Patrick Grady, CEO, Talaris; Craig Donato, President and CEO, Grand Central.

SDForum Presentation. The slides from my 6/18/02 presentation, Web Hosting Strategies, and a writeup/review are available in PDF format.

WorldCom and Me. I'm among the featured bloggers in this issue of WorldCom Magazine. Could it be the last? Doh! Too bad I threw my copy in the trash. It may become a collector's item.

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