Semantic Web Services Framework (SWSF) Overview
- This version:
- Latest version:
Steve Battle (Hewlett Packard)
Abraham Bernstein (University of Zurich)
Harold Boley (National Research Council of Canada)
Benjamin Grosof (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Michael Gruninger (NIST)
Richard Hull (Bell Labs Research, Lucent Technologies)
Michael Kifer (State University of New York at Stony Brook)
David Martin (SRI International)
Sheila McIlraith (University of Toronto)
Deborah McGuinness (Stanford University)
Jianwen Su (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Said Tabet (The RuleML Initiative)
Copyright © 2005 retained by the authors.
All Rights Reserved.
See the W3C Intellectual Rights Notices and Disclaimers for additional information.
This document provides an overview of the Semantic Web
Services Framework (SWSF), which includes the Semantic Web
Services Language (SWSL) and the Semantic Web Services Ontology
Status of this document
This document is part of a member submission, offered by
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST),
National Research Council of Canada,
University of Southampton
on behalf of themselves and the authors.
This is one of four documents
that make up the submission.
These documents define the Semantic Web Services Framework (SWSF).
This submission has been prepared by the Semantic Web Services
Language Committee of the Semantic Web Services Initiative.
The W3C Team Comment discusses this submission
in the context of W3C activities.
Public comment on this document is invited on the mailing list
Announcements and current information may also be available on the SWSL Committee Web site.
By publishing this document, W3C acknowledges that
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST),
National Research Council of Canada,
University of Southampton
have made a formal submission to W3C for discussion. Publication of
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nor that W3C has, is, or will be allocating any resources to the
issues addressed by it. This document is not the product of a
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1 Introduction to SWSL and SWSO
2 Document Roadmap
The promise of Web services and the need for widely accepted standards
enabling them are widely recognized, and considerable efforts are
underway to define and evolve such standards in the commercial realm. In
particular, the Web Services Description Language (WSDL)
already well established as an essential building block in the evolving
stack of Web service technologies, and is being standardized in the W3C's
Web Services Description Working Group. WSDL, in essence, allows
for the specification of the syntax of the input and output messages of a
basic service, as well as other details needed for the invocation of the
service. WSDL does not, however, support the specification of workflows
composed of basic services. In this area, the Business Process Execution
Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS)
under development at OASIS,
has the most prominent status. The Choreography Description Language
under development by W3C's Web Services Choreography Working
Group, serves to "define from a global viewpoint ... the
information exchanges that occur and the jointly agreed ordering rules
that need to be satisfied" in carrying out a Web service-based
With respect to registering Web services for
purposes of advertising and discovery, Universal Description, Discovery
and Integration (UDDI) [UDDI v3.02] has received the most attention to
date. Standards are also being developed in connection with various other
aspects of Web service provisioning, such as reliable messaging,
security, and resource management.
At the same time, recognition is growing of the need for richer semantic
specifications of Web services, based on a compressive representational
framework that spans the full range of service-related concepts. Such a
framework will enable fuller, more flexible automation of service
provision and use, support the construction of more powerful tools and
methodologies, and promote the use of semantically well-founded reasoning
about services. Because an expressive representation framework permits
the specification of many different aspects of services, it can provide a
foundation for a broad range of activities, across the Web service
lifecycle. For example, richer semantics can support greater automation
of service selection and invocation; automated translation of message
content between heterogeneous interoperating services; automated or
semi-automated approaches to service composition; more comprehensive
approaches to service monitoring and recovery from failure; and fuller
automation of verification, simulation, configuration, supply chain
management, contracting, and negotiation for services.
The technologies presented in this document are designed to
realize this Semantic Web Service vision
This report presents
two major components:
Semantic Web Services Language (SWSL) is used to
specify formal characterizations of Web service concepts and
descriptions of individual services. It includes two
SWSL-FOL is based on first-order logic (FOL) and is used
primarily to express the formal characterization (ontology) of
Web service concepts.
SWSL-Rules is based on the logic-programming (or "rules")
paradigm and is used to support the use of the service ontology in
reasoning and execution environments based on that paradigm.
SWSL is a general-purpose language (that is, its features are
not service-specific), but it has been designed to address the needs of
Semantic Web Services. Also associated with SWSL is a
simplified presentation syntax, which reduces to SWSL-FOL.
Semantic Web Services Ontology (SWSO) presents a
conceptual model by which Web services can be described, and an
axiomatization, or formal characterization, of that model.
The complete axiomatization is given in first-order logic, using
SWSL-FOL, with a model-theoretic semantics that specifies the
precise meaning of the concepts. We call this FOL form of the ontology FLOWS --
First-Order Logic Ontology for
Web Services. In addition, the axioms from FLOWS have been
systematically translated into the SWSL-Rules language (with an
unavoidable weakening of some axioms). The resulting
ontology, which relies on logic-programming semantics,
ROWS -- Rules Ontology for
More specifically, SWSL is a general-purpose logical language,
with certain features to make it usable with the basic languages and
infrastructure of the Web. These features include URIs, integration of
XML built-in types, and XML-compatible namespace and import
mechanisms. SWSL includes two layers of expressiveness: SWSL-FOL
and SWSL-Rules. SWSL-FOL is a first-order logic, extended with features
and the frame syntax of F-logic
SWSL-Rules is a full-featured logic programming (LP) language, which
includes a novel combination of features from Courteous logic programs
HiLog, and F-logic.
Nearly all the elements of
the syntax are
common to both SWSL-FOL and SWSL-Rules, so as to promote the ability of
developers to easily work with both layers, and to facilitate various
kinds of interchange and interoperation between the layers. The
presentation syntax is designed for readability, and incorporates a
number of convenience features, such as an object-oriented style of
presentation, which can be used to improve code organization and
comprehensibility, but without changing the expressiveness and
tractability of the underlying logical systems. An XML-based
serialization syntax, based on RuleML, is also specified.
FLOWS is an axiomatized ontology of service concepts,
which provides the conceptual framework for describing and reasoning
about services. FLOWS draws many of its intuitions and lessons-learned
from OWL-S, the OWL ontology for Web services
[OWL-S 1.1]. A key
contribution of the FLOWS ontology is the development of a rich
behavioural process model, based on ISO 18629
Process Specification Language (PSL)
Originally designed to support interoperability among process modeling
languages, PSL provides the ideal foundation for interoperability among
emerging Web service process models, while supporting the realization of
automation task associated with the Semantic Web Service vision. FLOWS
goes beyond PSL in modeling many Web-service specific process concepts
including messages, channels, inputs and outputs.
designed modularly. It comprises an ontology for service descriptors,
somewhat akin to a domain-independent yellow-pages or OWL-S service
profile, an extensive process model ontology, and a grounding that
relates the process model message types to WSDL messages.
The process model ontology is in
turn comprised of a core ontology and a number of extensions.
The statements above about FLOWS are also true of ROWS, which
is derived from FLOWS.
In addition to presenting SWSL and SWSO, this document also
provides some guidance as to how SWSL-FOL and SWSL-Rules can be
used together, examples of applications of SWSL and SWSO, and a
discussion of how FLOWS-based service descriptions can be
grounded in the concrete descriptions of messages and
protocols provided by WSDL.
This proposal has been prepared by the
Semantic Web Services
Language Committee of the Semantic Web Services Initiative,
international research effort. In addition to providing further
evolution of the SWSL language and ontology, SWSI will also be a forum for
working towards convergence of SWSL with the products
of the WSMO research effort
The overall design of the SWSL Language and Ontology, and of the
application scenarios using those, has been motivated by an
overall longer-term vision and set of objectives for Semantic
Web services. These are summarized in a requirements document,
which is available on the SWSL Committee's Web site [SWSL Requirements]. That document
expressed our thinking as we set out to design the SWSF Languge
and Ontology. The current design of SWSF addresses, directly or
indirectly, most (but not all) of the points in the requirements
is an ontology of service concepts expressed
in OWL-DL, a decidable description logic language.
In contrast, FLOWS is an ontology of service concepts
expressed in first-order logic. Since OWL-DL trades off expressiveness
for decidability, there were aspects of the OWL-S process model
ontology whose semantics could not be defined in the OWL-DL language.
This is not a problem with the FLOWS ontology. FLOWS provides a
more comprehensive ontology, building on the conceptual model and
lessons-learned from OWL-S. As such it captures all
concepts in OWL-S. In terms of coverage it is distinguished by
its axiomatization of messages, something that was not addressed in
OWL-S. An important final distinction between OWL-S and FLOWS is
with respect to the role it plays. Whereas both endeavours attempt
to provide an ontology for Web services, FLOWS had the additional
objective of acting as a focal point for interoperability, enabling
other business process modeling languages to be expressed or
related to FLOWS.
Process Specification Language (PSL) and related
specifications: There are a number of efforts whose aim is
to develop a process specification ontology. These efforts include
PSL [Gruninger03a], BPMI
[BPML 1.0], and others. The process
ontology of SWSL is based on PSL. From the perspective of PSL, FLOWS
may be viewed as a collection of extensions that situate the
description of processes within a larger context of message-based
communications across networks.
BPEL4WS: There is much to be said about the
relationship between this effort and BPEL4WS
BPEL4WS provides an executable
business process modeling language that enables the specification
(orchestration) of executable business processes as well as the
description of non-executable processes. The most obvious point of
comparison between BPEL4WS and this effort is with respect to the
FLOWS ontology. The FLOWS ontology is a great deal more than process
modeling, supporting the axiomatization of non-functional service
descriptions (for service discovery) as well as the rich mapping of
message types to WSDL.
We believe that the FLOWS process model subsumes the BPEL4WS process
model, enabling the encoding of both executable and abstract BPEL
process models in FLOWS. (Note
that we have not yet confirmed this through a systematic translation.)
Whereas BPEL takes a message-centric view of services, FLOWS provides
for a process-centric view of services, where message exchanges
are conceived as additional processes that may be inferred automatically. A notable difference between the two formalisms is that FLOWS supports
the encoding of service side-effects, i.e., the effects of services
on the world, which enables automated composition of Web services,
in additon to the manual composition supported by BPEL.
BPEL is indeed designed for Web service orchestration, whereas
FLOWS may also be used for choreography of services.
Web Services Modeling Ontology (WSMO): WSMO [Bruijn05] is a
parallel effort to define an ontology and a language for Semantic Web
services. Like SWSL-Rules, WSMO's rule language, WSML is largely based on
F-logic and these languages share much of the logical expression
syntax. Nevertheless, the two groups have pursued complimentary
goals. WSMO has focused heavily on the language effort, and in particular
on end user issues, associated with the language. In particular, they
have developed a "conceptual syntax" for top-level descriptions of
services, which might make the specifications easier to read for the end
user. WSMO has also paid special attention to the issue of OWL
compatibility. To this end, it defined WSML-Core as a subset of both OWL
and WSML, which serves as a common ground for ontology
interoperability. In contrast, SWSL's focus was on extending the
functionality of the rule language. In particular, SWSL-Rules supports
meta-reasoning with its HiLog and reification extensions. It also
supports prioritized defaults and classical negation by incorporating
Courteous Logic Programming.
A major distinction between the WSMO effort and the effort presented here
is with respect to the ontology. The two efforts are divergent, but
complementary. WSMO has focussed on describing Web service choreography
through guarded transition rules, Event-Condition-Action (ECA) rules
which are viewed as abstract
state machines. In contrast, FLOWS provides an extensive first-order
process ontology, which enables description of process orchestration as
well as message exchange among processes. The FLOWS ontology also
provides the foundation for enabling automated simulation, verification
and composition of Web services, something that cannot be done with the
guarded transition rules, without further definition of the semantics.
This report comprises four top-level documents:
- Semantic Web Services Framework
Overview, this document, includes introductory material,
comments about selected other work that is most directly related
to this work, and acknowledgements.
- The Semantic Web Services Language (SWSL)
describes the syntactic elements of SWSL and, informally, its
semantic underpinnings. It also explains how SWSL-FOL and
SWSL-Rules can be used together, and presents an XML
serialization syntax for SWSL, based on RuleML.
- The Semantic Web Services Ontology (SWSO)
presents FLOWS, a first-order ontology for Web services,
expressed in SWSL-FOL, and its partial
translation into ROWS, expressed in SWSL-Rules.
SWSO also includes material about grounding FLOWS/ROWS process
models with WSDL.
The SWSO document includes four appendices:
A PSL in SWSL-FOL and SWSL-Rules
B Axiomatization of the FLOWS Process Model
Axiomatization of the Process Model in SWSL-Rules
D Reference Grammars
- SWSF Application Scenarios
gives examples that illustrate possible uses of the
ontology and the language.
So as to be more-or-less self-contained, each of these four documents
includes a glossary and references. For simplicity, these are
the same in each document.
For pedagogical reasons, it makes sense to introduce SWSL before
SWSO, since SWSL is used in expressing SWSO. However, the SWSO
document relies primarily on simple uses of SWSL-FOL. Hence,
those readers who are already familiar with first-order logic
may want to begin with the SWSO document, which contains the Web
services-specific aspects of this work. A suggested order of
reading for such readers is: the Overview document (this
document); the Ontology document; the first two sections of the
Applications document; the Language document; the three
remaining sections of the Applications document.
We are grateful for the vision and support of Murray Burke and Dieter Fensel, who first envisioned the collaboration that became SWSI, and
were essential in getting it started.
in her role as SWSI co-executive (with Dieter) has been active
and supportive throughout the efforts of the committee, and has given
valuable guidance in many areas.
The participation of some members of SWSL was funded by the DARPA DAML Program.
We very much
appreciate the ongoing support, interest, and patience of DAML program
managers Jim Hendler, Murray Burke, and Mark Greaves.
We are also grateful to Carine Bournez and Sandro Hawke, of the World
Wide Web Consortium, for guidance in the preparation of this
submission. We thank the W3C for permitting and supporting the use of
the public-sws-ig mailing list for discussion of SWSL issues, and
Carine Bournez for helping to make this possible.
We would like to give special thanks to the following individuals
who have made significant contributions to this work:
- Karl Aberer
- Mark Burstein
- Bijan Parsia
- Daniela Berardi
- Richard Goodwin
- Drew McDermott
- Terry Payne
- Axel Polleres
- Austin Tate
We are also greatly appreciative of the efforts of the following
individuals, who, as reviewers, provided valuable
feedback on short notice:
- Tom Hite
- Ruben Lara
- Massimo Paolucci
This document has benefited from input from
members of the Semantic
Web Services Architecture (SWSA) committee.
In the formal PSL ontology, the notion of activity is a basic construct,
which corresponds intuitively to a kind of (manufacturing
or processing) activity.
In PSL, an activity may have associated
correspond intuitively to individual instances or
executions of the activity.
(We note that in PSL an activity is not a class or type with
occurrences as members; rather, an activity is an object,
and occurrences are related to this object by the
The occurrences of an activity may impact
fluents (which provide an abstract
representation of the "real world").
In FLOWS, with each service there is an associated
activity (called the "service activity" of that service).
The service activity may specify aspects of the internal
process flow of the service, and also aspects of the
messaging interface of that service to other services.
In FLOWS, a channel is a formal conceptual object,
which corresponds intuitively to a repository and
conduit for messages.
The FLOWS notion of channel is quite primitive,
and under various restrictions can be used to model
the form of channel or message-passing as
found in web services standards,
including WSDL, BPEL, WS-Choreography, WSMO,
and also as found in several research investigations,
including process algrebras.
Logic Ontology for Web Services.
FLOWS, also known as SWSO-FOL,
is the first-order logic version of the Semantic Web Services Ontology.
FLOWS is an extension of the PSL-OuterCore ontology, to
incorporate the fundamental aspects of
(web and other electronic) services, including service descriptors,
the service activity, and the service grounding.
In FLOWS, following PSL and the situation calculii, a
fluent is a first-order logic term or predicate whose
value may vary over time.
In a first-order model of a FLOWS theory, this
being a model of PSL-OuterCore,
time is represented as a discrete linear sequence
of timees, and
fluents has a value for each time in this sequence.
The SWSO concepts for describing service activities,
and the instantiations
of these concepts that describe a particular service activity, are
abstract specifications, in the sense that they do not specify
the details of particular message formats, transport protocols,
addresses by which a Web service is accessed. The role of
the grounding is to provide these more concrete
A substantial portion of the grounding can be acheived by
mapping SWSO concepts into corresponding WSDL constructs.
(Additional grounding, e.g., of some process-related aspects
of SWSO, might be acheived using other standards, such
In FLOWS, a message is a formal conceptual object,
which corresponds intuitively to a single message that
is created by a service occurrence, and read by zero
or more service occurrences.
The FLOWS notion of message is quite primitive, and
under various restrictions can be used to model
the form of messages as found in web services standards,
including WSDL (1.0 and 2.0), BPEL, WS-Choreography, WSMO,
and also as found in several research investigations.
A message has a payload, which corresponds
intuitively to the body or contents of the message.
In FLOWS emphasis is placed on the knowledge that
is gained by a service occurrence when reading a message
with a given payload
(and the knowledge needed to create that message.
Occurence (of a service).
In FLOWS, a service S has an associated FLOWS activity
generalizes the notion of PSL activity).
An occurrence of S is formally
a PSL occurrence of the activity A.
Intuitively, this occurrence corresponds to
an instance or execution (from start to finish) of the activity
A, i.e., of the process associated with
As in PSL, an occurrence has a starting time
time and an ending time.
Process Specification Language.
The Process Specification Language (PSL) is a
formally axiomatized ontology
that has been
standardized as ISO 18629.
PSL provides a layered, extensible ontology
for specifying properties of processes.
The most basic PSL constructs are embodied in
PSL-Core; and PSL-OuterCore incorporates
several extensions of PSL-Core that includes
several useful constructs.
(An overview of concepts in PSL
relevant to FLOWS is given in
Section 6 of the
Semantic Web Services Ontology document.)
A pair (URI, local-name). The URI represents a
namespace and local-name represents a name used in an XML
document, such as a tag name or an attribute name.
In XML, QNames are syntactically
represented as prefix:local-name, where prefix is
a macro that expands into a concrete URI.
in XML for more details.
Rules Ontology for Web Services.
ROWS, also known as SWSO-Rules,
is the rules-based version of the Semantic Web Services Ontology.
ROWS is created by a relatively straight-forward,
transformation of FLOWS, the First-order Logic Ontology for
As with FLOWS, ROWS incorporates
fundamental aspects of
(web and other electronic) services, including service descriptors,
the service activity, and the service grounding.
ROWS enables a rules-based specification of a family of
services, including both the underlying ontology and
the domain-specific aspects.
In FLOWS, a service is a conceptual object, that
corresponds intuitively to a web service (or other electronically
accessible service). Through binary predicates a service
is associated with various service descriptors (a.k.a.
non-functional properties) such as Service Name, Service Author,
Service URL, etc.; an activity (in the sense of
PSL) which specifies intuitively the process model associated with the
service; and a grounding.
- Service contract
- Describes an agreement between the service requester and service
detailing requirements on a service occurrence or family of
- Service descriptor
This is one of several non-functional properties
associated with services.
The Service Descriptors include
Service Name, Service Author, Service Contract Information,
Service Contributor, Service Description, Service URL,
Service Identifier, Service Version, Service Release Date,
Service Language, Service Trust, Service Subject,
Service Reliability, and Service Cost.
- Service offer description
Describes an abstract service (i.e. not a concrete instance of the service)
provided by a service provider agent.
- Service requirement description
Describes an abstract service required by a service requester agent,
in the context of service discovery, service brokering, or negotiation.
A serialized QName is a shorthand representation of a URI. It is
a macro that expands into a full-blown URI.
sQNames are not QNames: the former are URIs, while the latter are
pairs (URI, local-name).
Serialized QNames were originally introduced in RDF as a notation for
shortening URI representation. Unfortunately,
RDF introduced confusion by adopting the term QName for something that is
different from QNames used in XML. To add to the confusion, RDF uses
the syntax for sQNames that is identical to XML's syntax for QNames.
SWSL distinguishes between QNames and sQNames, and uses the
syntax prefix#local-name for the latter.
Such an sQName expands into a full URI by concatenating the value
of prefix with local-name.
Universal Resource Identifier.
A symbol used to locate resources on the Web. URIs are defined by IETF. See
Uniform Resource Identifiers
(URI): Generic Syntax for more details.
Within the IETF standards the notion of URI is an extension
and refinement of the notions of Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
and Relative Uniform Resource Locators.
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