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Web Services - An Integrative Tool for Today's Web

Part II: Web Service Framework

This article is Part II in a four part series ‘Web Services - An Integrative Tool for Today’s Web’. In this series the following related topics on Web services for today’s technology will be discussed:

Today’s Internet is basically made up of standalone applications and Web sites that create groups of functionality and data which have to be manually navigated between them. Some applications and Web sites can make it difficult to carry information with you, or in some cases make simple tasks, such as setting up business schedules complex or impossible. This type of inefficiency can lead to major productivity loss for businesses of all sizes. Due to the changes in which the Web is now being used by businesses and consumers, the industry is working toward a standard computing model (XML Web services) that enables the building of applications and processes that will connect and exchange information over the Web.

Web services consists of applications that are modular, self-containing and self–describing with the ability to be published, located, or dynamically invoked across the Web. In order to achieve decentralized interoperability, a common framework is required to help identify specific functions that need to be addressed. This approach will help with relationships by dividing the problem space into common sub-problems. The functional decomposition will allow for non-overlapping solutions without omitting functionality, along with relieving conflicts.

Not all applications need to have the same facilities rather they should have a common framework and preferably have a standard expression. Web service framework is specified by open standards in three areas: 1) communications protocols; 2) service descriptions; and 3) service discovery. This framework will provide a structure for integration and a foundation for service-oriented applications.

The combination of Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) with a standard XML-based protocol used for messaging on the Internet provide a means to communicate between applications running on different operating systems and have been developed using different programming languages. With the open standards of Web Services, elimination of interoperability issues of traditional EAI solutions may be achieved. However, much of this depends on the technologies and coding practices that are used.

Even though Web services technology offers the ability to integrate disparate applications (including legacy applications) and processes in a seamless manner, other issues especially with enterprise frameworks exist. Various developer tools available today that are designed to help eliminate the excessive amount of coding required to create a Web Service are also generally restricted to a specific technology and/or platform. As a result, achieving total interoperability with Web Services is always a challenge. When these challenges are successfully addressed, the integration methodology used will permit business processes, machines, and applications to work together in a ground-breaking way.

The lack of a common framework leaves developers guessing on how various components will work together. It is the guesswork that leads to a fragile environment and poor interoperability. An added benefit from following a standard framework is the enabling of critical pieces to be completed faster than others. This process will then allow any other implementations to then proceed, along with the development and adoption of individual components to occur in correspondingly.

The need for secure business logic beyond the firewall has lead technology down the road to Web services, and it is with the driving technology that will allow companies to encapsulate existing business processes for publication as services, subscribe to other services, and search and exchange information throughout an enterprise and beyond. With the goal of connecting applications worldwide, this concept of integration and convergence is essential in realizing the vast amount of benefits from cross-enterprise, global application integration.