What are Web services? AN INTERNET service is a program that can be invoked by another program means of an online protocol remotely, such as HTTP. The term is ambiguous unfortunately, because the word “Web” does not make reference to “Internet sites” but to the net transport process (HTTP) that is typically used by Web services to talk to each other.
Hence, Web services are a real way of implementing a distributed computing model across heterogeneous processing platforms. If you’ve ever visited Amazon’s Internet site and entered a FedEx tracking number to retrieve delivery status, you’ve seen a Web service in operation. In this full case, the net service is provided by FedEx, that your Amazon’s Site invokes to retrieve your package tracking information. Another live example you can play with is Microsoft’s MapPoint, which is actually Microsoft’s first commercial Web service.
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If you have a Web site or other application that requires mapping information, you can sign up for MapPoint and pay Microsoft by the transaction. In both examples, you’ve got information delivered from remote control systems on demand through Web services. Web services are an technology around which fierce competitors (e.g. IBM, Microsoft, Sun, H-P, Oracle) are cooperating to develop open criteria for the normal good. Some key criteria include XML (Extensible Markup Language), SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), UDDI (Universal Discovery and Description Initiative), and WSDL (Web Services Description Language).
Application development frameworks for Web services fall into two main categories: the ones that are based on the Microsoft .NET Framework, and those that derive from Java 2 Business Edition (J2EE). Nevertheless, because Web services are standards-based, those developed under Microsoft .NET must have no nagging problem interoperating with those developed under J2EE.
Many business system suppliers (e.g. SAP, Siebel, Oracle, Peoplesoft, J.D. Web services, somewhat or another. For the business system vendors, the big hope is that Web services will help reduce the issue of integrating systems internally and between trading companions. Integration before has been achieved either by writing custom interfaces, implementing complex and costly business software integration (EAI) software, or by establishing XML or EDI links. I view the emerging Web service application architecture as a paradigm shift within the IT industry, and a shift that eventually will impact basic general business processes in a most fundamental way.
All hype apart, this new structures permits, and even easily helps the inexpensive, incremental automation and integration of inter-company, cooperative business procedures. The practical options for even more process automation, leveraging the cheap hardware currently available, is truly mind boggling if you ask me. It remains to be observed whether Web services shall surpass these objectives. Thus far, most development of Web services has been occurring behind firewalls, as some IT departments are experimenting with the technology to create simple interfaces between internal systems. There’s a general consensus that the specifications are not yet fully developed to the degree needed to manage complex integration reasoning between business companions, in providing security and multi-step transactional workflow specifically.