The Object Management Group task force last week rejected the notion of using Distributed Computing Environment Remote Procedure Call as the basis of ‘out of the box’ object request broker interoperability, despite Digital Equipment Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co’s last ditch rescue attempt. Meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire, the task force recommended a slightly modified version […]
The Object Management Group task force last week rejected the notion of using Distributed Computing Environment Remote Procedure Call as the basis of ‘out of the box’ object request broker interoperability, despite Digital Equipment Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co’s last ditch rescue attempt. Meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire, the task force recommended a slightly modified version of the TCP/IP-based Universal Networked Objects specification proposed by Bell Northern Research, Expersoft Corp, ICL Plc, Iona Technologies Ltd and SunSoft Inc, for use as the specification for CORBA 2.0. In the vote, the object specification, effectively the General Inter-Object Request Broker Protocol layered on top of TCP/IP, secured 18 votes; there were five votes against and eight abstentions. IBM Corp, with its name on both submissions, was among the fence-sitters; the other no-votes were Microsoft Corp, the Open Software Foundation, apparently for procedural reasons, and Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG. Universal Networked Objects affords Distributed Computing Environment a special, but not mandatory, status as an environment-specific protocol, such that DCE-based Object Request Brokers can use DCE Remote Procedure Call to pass objects among themselves. Universal Networked Objects also includes a DCE bridging mechanism that will start whenever a DCE Object Request Broker is encountered. Under the revised submission, however, use of the General Inter-Object Request Broker Protocol will be mandatory for CORBA 2.0 compliance if, as seems likely, Universal Networked Objects is adopted.
Dominant transport mechanism
But these concessions remain unpalatable to DEC and Hewlett-Packard whose business models are focused on a world in which DCE Remote Procedure Call is the dominant transport mechanism. Although neither appears ready yet to countenance Distributed Computing Environment playing second fiddle – indeed DEC says it is committed to continued development of its Object Request Broker interoperability programme using DCE, whatever the Object Group adopts – Universal Networked Objects is the future both must live with or commit what would amount to commercial suicide. It is our understanding that Object Group users were instrumental in the outcome, indicating they would not be fobbed off with an interoperability offering that came in two types, and demanded a single protocol. All task force users, independent software vendors and integrators voted for the networked objects option. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, CORBA 2.0 has always been about a straight choice between protocols. Although DEC and Hewlett-Packard were huffing and puffing at press-time about the remaining ratification processes and claims that Universal Networked Objects is based on untested and undocumented technology, CORBA 2.0 appears to be all but a done deal and the Object Group, its process now apparently vindicated, is wasting no time in pushing the submission along. All we know so far is that a facsimile vote of the 85-strong technical committee is underway and around a dozen ‘yes’ votes have already been counted, including IBM’s. The Object Mangement Group hopes that the committee’s decision will be complete in time for its board to vote CORBA 2.0 into existence at its meeting on December 7 at AT&T Corp in New Jersey. Like everyone else, all six Universal Networked Objects submitters will have to alter their own architecture to fit the specification, which apparently amounts to some 40Kb of code. SunSoft Inc already has a prototype, and says that there are several ways in which Universal Networked Objects could be incorporated into products, including the addition of bridges. This looks likely for some existing product lines plus emerging technologies that rely on proprietary transport mechanisms for now. But Sun says it has not yet decided how it will make the technology commercially attractive.