CORBA and WWW: On a Collision Course

John F. Buford, Ph.D.

Distributed Multimedia Systems Lab

University of Massachusetts Lowell

The web has achieved a global scale hypertext information system building on a relatively simple protocol, server design, and document model. It is now expected to become a globally distributed application delivery system, a globally distributed transaction processing system, and a globally distributed real-time multimedia content delivery system.

Industry and users will benefit if this transition can be accomplished without splintering the web into a number of different competing and proprietary designs to provide this new functionality. The use of existing standards can enhance this prospect and accelerate the process.

CORBA and CORBA Services provide important building blocks for integrating existing information systems and building rich distributed information and application systems.

Vendors and developer are beginning to combine these two technologies. The web developer community will in the near future have a choice between CGI, proprietary server interfaces such as NSAPI, CORBA, and Distributed COM. The relative sophistication of CORBA and its growing support in industry suggest that it will be a key tool for tieing distributed applications into the web. We believe that the CORBA framework is a suitable foundation for service and security management, an important area for organizations that wish to use web servers for information management.

Some issues for the WWW camp: 1) utility of CORBAservices for evolving the web 2) security 3) service management and administration 4) openness of the server and client to multiple object frameworks which are likely to exist in the near future 5) hybrid servers which use CORBA for intranet and http for wide-area

Some issues for the OMG camp: 1) ORB scalability to large numbers of objects and object transactions 2) ORB performance in wide-area networks 3) Use of mobile code in CORBA

We have developed a web-compatible server that delivers HTML, SGML, and HyTime documents through an object-oriented interface. Some of our previous research is described in the references below.

One area of evolution for WWW is real-time multimedia content delivery. Some substantial protocol and interface design work has already been done in this area, notably the IMA's Multimedia Systems Services model and the ISO MPEG-2 DSM-CC standard. Both of these designs use OMG IDL to describe the interfaces.

References (more citations)

[1] J. Buford. HyTime: Evaluation and Implementation Experience. ACM Hypertext 96. March 1996.

[2] L. Rutledge, J. Buford, R. Price. Mobile Objects and the HyOctane Distributed Hyperdocument Server. IMC 96. Feb. 1996.

[3] J. F. K. Buford (ed.) Multimedia Systems. ACM Press/Addison-Wesley 1994.