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Web Services Atomic Transaction support in the application server

The Web Services Atomic Transaction (WS-AT) support in the application server provides transactional quality of service to the web services environment. Distributed web services applications, and the resources they use, can take part in distributed global transactions.

Web services protocols provide standard ways of defining web services applications, allowing the applications to operate independently of the product, platform, or programming language used. The WS-AT support is an implementation of the following specifications on the application server. These specifications define a set of web services that enable web services applications to participate in global transactions that are distributed across the heterogeneous web services environment.

The WS-AT support is support for an interoperability protocol that introduces no new programming interfaces for transactional support. Global transaction demarcation is provided by standard enterprise application use of the Java Transaction API (JTA) UserTransaction interface. If an application component running under a global transaction makes a web services request, a WS-AT CoordinationContext is implicitly propagated to the target web service, but only if the appropriate application deployment descriptors have been set, as described in the topic about configuring transactional deployment attributes.

If the application server is the system hosting the target endpoint for a web services request containing a WS-AT CoordinationContext, the application server automatically establishes a subordinate JTA transaction in the target runtime environment that becomes the transactional context under which the target web service application runs.

The following figure, shows a transaction context shared between two application servers for a web services request containing a WS-AT CoordinationContext.

Figure 1. Transaction context shared between two application servers

For transitioning users: You no longer need to create new web container transport chains to use the WS-AT support. The application server is already configured to enable WS-AT, and no further configuration is required.trns

We can configure the policies for the WS-AtomicTransaction protocol. We can configure whether a client propagates, and a server receives, a WS-AT context. To ensure that a client always sends WS-AtomicTransaction context when it makes an outbound service request, we must associate a policy set with the client, where the policy set must include the WS-Transaction policy type, and this policy type must have a WS-AtomicTransaction setting of Mandatory. Alternatively, if we know that the client always invokes remote endpoints that include the WS-AtomicTransaction ATAssertion policy type attribute, we can configure the client to apply the WS-Policy configuration of the provider so that the client adopts the mandatory policy of the provider automatically.

To ensure that any requests that a web services provider receives include a WS-AtomicTransaction context, we must associate a policy set with the provider, where the policy set must include the WS-Transaction policy type, and this policy type must have a WS-AtomicTransaction setting of andatory.

To ensure that a client or provider never use WS-AtomicTransaction context, we must associate a policy set with the client or provider, where the policy set includes the WS-Transaction policy type, and this policy type must have a WS-AtomicTransaction setting of Never. We might use this configuration for environments where we do not want web services requests to create a tight coupling between a client and a provider, for example when there are requests between enterprises.

If there is no policy set associated with a client or provider, or the WS-Transaction policy type is not included in the policy set, the default WS-Transaction behavior is used.

WS-AT support restrictions

In this version of the application server, WS-AT contexts cannot be started from a non-recoverable client process.

(ZOS) Work requests for the same WS-AT transaction sent to a server cluster are not guaranteed to be assigned to the same cluster member every time. In such cases, the work for a transaction might be handled by multiple cluster members. If transactional work of multiple cluster members contends over the same transactional resource, a deadlock condition can result.

Application design

WS-AT is a two-phase commit transaction protocol and is suitable for short duration transactions only.

An atomic transaction coordinates resource managers that isolate transactional updates by holding transactional locks on resources. Therefore, it is generally not recommended that WS-AT transactions are distributed across enterprise domains. Inter-enterprise transactions typically require a looser semantic than two-phase commit, and in such scenarios, it can be more appropriate to use a compensating business transaction, for example, as part of a Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) process, or using Web Services Business Activity (WS-BA).

WS-AT is most appropriate for distributing transaction context across web services that are deployed in a single enterprise. Only request-response message exchange patterns carry transaction context because the originator (application or container) of a transaction must be sure that all business tasks that are run under that transaction have finished before requesting the completion of a transaction. Web services invoked by a one-way request never run under the transaction of the requesting client.

The effect of service faults on WS-AT transactions is similar to the effect of Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) application exceptions on transactions, as described in the EJB specification. If a service running under a requester WS-AT transaction returns a fault, the application server does not automatically mark the transaction rollback-only. The exception handler of the requester chooses whether the transaction can progress and chooses whether to mark the transaction rollback-only. If the requester is running in the application server, the standard JTA or EJB APIs can be used to mark the transaction rollback-only. The service component that generates the fault might, itself, mark the transaction rollback-only before returning the fault. If the implementation of the service component encounters a system exception, it typically allows its container to handle the exception. Application server containers automatically mark any received transaction context rollback-only when handling a system exception generated by a service implementation.

Application development

There are no specific development tasks required for web services applications to take advantage of WS-AT.

For JAX-RPC applications, there are some application deployment descriptors that we must set appropriately, as described in the topic about configuring transactional deployment attributes. The JAX-RPC run time supports WS-AT 1.0.

For JAX-WS applications, enable WS-AT support by creating a policy set, adding the WS-Transaction policy type to the policy set, optionally configuring the policy type, and attaching the policy set to the application or client that will be involved in the WS-AT communication. The JAX-WS run time supports WS-AT 1.0, WS-AT 1.1, WS-AT 1.2 and the WS-Policy assertion for WS-AT.

When the JAX-WS runtime receives an inbound request, WS-Transaction 1.0, WS-Transaction 1.1 and WS-Transaction 1.2 specification levels are supported. When an outbound JAX-WS request is sent, only one specification level can be used. If WS-Transaction WS-Policy assertions are available, either from the Web Services Description Language (WSDL) of the target web service, or from the WS-Transaction policy type of the client, the specification level that is applicable to the client and the target web service is used. For example, if the hosting environment of the target web service supports only WS-Transaction 1.0, WS-AT 1.0 is used. If both specification levels are applicable, or if no WS-Transaction WS-Policy assertions are available, the default WS-Transaction specification level that is set in the Transaction service settings is used.

The default behavior when there is no effective policy set, or when the WS-Transaction policy type is not included in the effective policy set, is as follows:

Application developers do not have to explicitly register WS-AT participants. The application server run time takes responsibility for the registration of WS-AT participants, in the same way as the registration of XAResources in the JTA transaction to which the WS-AT transaction is federated. At transaction completion time, all XAResources and WS-AT participants are coordinated atomically by the application server transaction service.

If a JTA transaction is active on the thread when a web services application request is made, the transaction is propagated across on the web services request and established in the target environment. This process is similar to the distribution of transaction context over IIOP, as described in the EJB specification. Any transactional work performed in the target environment becomes part of the same global transaction.

WS-Transaction policy assertions

If we configure the policies for the WS-Transaction protocol for a provider, this configuration affects the assertions included in any WSDL generated for the web service with which the policy type is associated. The WS-Policy assertion used to describe the transactional requirements of a client or provider that uses WS-AtomicTransaction is ATAssertion. If the WS-Transaction policy type has a WS-AtomicTransaction setting of Mandatory or Supports, a policy assertion is included in the WSDL.

The application server can also parse, understand, and apply such assertions in WSDL that it parses.

The following example shows WSDL where the WS-AtomicTransaction ATAssertion indicates that an endpoint must be invoked with WS-AT context included in the request message, and that the context can be in WS-Transaction 1.0 or 1.1 format. There are two namespaces and there are two assertions; one for each WS-Transaction specification level, that use the WS-Policy ExactlyOne operator to show that the client must choose which specification level to use.

<wsdl:definitions targetNamespace="bank.example.com"
     <wsp:Policy wsu:Id="ATPolicy">
             <wsat11:ATAssertion />
             <wsat10:ATAssertion />
             <!-- omitted assertions -->
         </wsp:ExactlyOne />
     <!-- omitted elements -->
     <wsdl:binding name="BankBinding" type="tns:BankPortType">
          <!-- omitted elements -->
          <wsdl:operation name="TransferFunds">
               <wsp:PolicyReference URI="#ATPolicy" wsdl:required="true"/>
               <!-- omitted elements -->


  • Web Services Business Activity support in the application server
  • Use WS-Transaction policy to coordinate transactions or business activities for web services
  • Configure transactional deployment attributes
  • Create policy sets
  • Attaching a policy set to a service artifact
  • Configure the WS-Transaction policy
  • Configure Web Services Transaction support in a secure environment
  • WS-Transaction policy settings