WS-BPEL can be viewed as the next generation of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). Although EDI and BPEL both deal with the automation of business-to-business electronic transactions, the specifications focus on different issues.

EDI specifications (i.e., ANSI X12) tend to be document-centric, with emphasis placed on defining the type and structure of business forms. Issues pertaining to the underlying business processes tend to be beyond the purview of the specifications.

WS-BPEL is process-centric. WS-BPEL is also Web-oriented in regards to its use of various W3C specifications. WS-BPEL addresses issues pertaining to electronic orchestration (i.e., message flows, activity execution order, the set of operations a trading partner can support, sharing process definitions). WS-BPEL also places emphasis on the notion of long running transactions. The essence of a long running transaction is in case of an error, the transaction cannot be rolled back to its initial state – mechanism compensation is required.

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