This paper presents a Web Service and HLA based multidisciplinary collaborative approach for complex product design in distributed network environment. A HLA and Web Service based framework to support multidisciplinary modeling and collaborative simulation is presented Then Its key modules including session manager and service encapsulation are discussed The framework supports collaborative designing on heterogeneous platforms. A typical prototype system of locomotive development supporting collaborative simulation is implemented to verify the feasibility of our solution. The experimental results shows that Web Service and HLA based approach can effectively support collaborative design under the distributed M&S environment.

Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) refers to technologies that use computer technologies, multimedia and network communication technologies to support geographically distributed users to collaborate with design tasks under shared environments. Complex product development period can be greatly shortened when users independently and collaboratively join in the process of designing, planning and assembly process with the same product under a distributed environment [1].

Interoperability between distributed and heterogeneous design teams is an important issue to develop collaborative design. In the context of multidisciplinary collaborative design, interoperability is not only a software problem, it also implies support of communication and transactions between different designers that must be based on shared business and technical references, with its underlying semantic, syntactic and organizational barriers to overcome to achieve interoperability. From the interoperability point of view, in [2], some interoperability issues within the HLA (High Level Architecture, [3]) framework are discussed, such as: interoperability between different domain models, interoperability between software systems within enterprises and off-the-shelf simulation packages, data exchange, etc.

Web Service, which can be accessed by standardized XML messaging methods via network, is an effective way to solve interoperability problems. It is a conception or technology that turns the Internet/Intranet into a virtual computing environment. Heterogeneous clients can access Web Service on the server via standard protocols such as HTTP and SMTP. The conceptual architecture of Web Service mainly includes three parts: service descriptions, service query/discovery, and service binding/composition. Service description is the description of service interface and implementation details with WSDL including data types, operations of services, binding service and its location. Query/discovery of service is the discovery of service, and binding/accessing occurs when the service requestor binds and accesses service by service description.

The data exchange is XML format between the client and server. The request message is sent to the server via the lower network protocol after the client encapsulates it with XML using SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) [4]. On receiving the SOAP request, the server parses the request, executes the corresponding service and returns the result to the client with SOAP. As Web Service is built under open standard and accepts heterogeneous clients accessing its service, the Web Service based applications can be loosely coupled, service-oriented, and implemented with multi-techniques.

This paper mainly presents a Web Service and HLA based distributed architecture to support multidisciplinary collaborative design. It provides a collaborative simulation environment and effectively integrates the modeling, simulation running and evaluating tools to achieve synchronized execution and real-time interaction for multidisciplinary models. It uses XML to define feature operations and the communication protocol between the server and client. In this distributed information integration and sharing mechanism, different application servers are encapsulated according to Web Service and ULA paradigm.