The Web Services Business Process Execution Language (WS-BPEL) 2.0 has been approved as an OASIS Standard, providing an officially ratified version of this specification for describing business process activities as web services, OASIS has said.

First proposed in 2002 by vendors such as Microsoft and IBM, the specification also known as BPEL, defines how web services can be composed to accomplish specific tasks. OASIS has been reviewing the specification since 2003, but a formally approved version never existed until now. The specification is considered critical for functions such as business-to-business (B2B) electronic commerce.

BPEL defines a model and a grammar for describing the behaviour of a business process based on interactions between a process and its partners, OASIS said. Interactions occur through web services interfaces. Multiple service interactions with partners are defined, to achieve a business goal.

"Think of a WS-BPEL process as a reusable definition that can be deployed in different ways and in different scenarios, while maintaining a uniform application-level behaviour across all of them," said Diane Jordan of IBM, co-chair of the OASIS WS-BPEL Technical Committee. "WS-BPEL introduces systematic mechanisms for dealing with business exceptions. This is essential because not all transactions are straightforward and simple. WS-BPEL lets you define how you want activities to be compensated in cases where exceptions occur or a partner requests reversal."

More than 37 organsations, including Adobe, BEA, Oracle, and Sun collaborated in the development of BPEL. OASIS members approved the specification in a closed vote late last month but OASIS held up an official announcement while it investigated some negative votes.

OASIS released statements from many companies in support of the specification.

"BPEL is already the industry foundation for orchestrating web services," said Charlton Barreto, Adobe senior computer scientist and architect. "The new WS-BPEL v2.0 standard is an important milestone that represents a significant evolution of the original specification. WS-BPEL enables our customers to build and deploy successful web services and SOA projects that scale with the organisation as they add new partners, customers and services to their infrastructure."

"As one of the earliest supporters of BPEL, Oracle has been enabling production BPEL customers for the past several years. The release of BPEL 2.0 is a significant development for the industry and will serve to increase the already strong momentum behind the BPEL standard. In particular, our customers see BPEL 2.0 as enabling a smooth evolution path from BPEL 1.1 and are excited to see several key process orchestration requirements now included in the standard," said Don Deutsch, vice president of Standards Strategy and Architecture, Oracle.