Web Services: Revolutionize your business

Industry is talking of Web Services to the height of Petronas Towers. For an IT
professional unaware of Web Services following questions come up,
1. How practical is it when it comes to implementation?
2. Are they real, or hype?
3. Why Web Services?
4. Who will be benefited?

Before answering the above questions, let’s present a small scenario, when some
ISV or an organization had to sell their services in the form of components, they
would write component compile it and make available on the stores (websites).
Potential consumers of the product, needed to know where the product is available,
after they search it, they incorporate it in their business application. It sounds quite
straightforward, but the story is not over yet. Proceeding with the change in the
product, provider had to modify the component and remarket with changes. This is
a perfect example of providing reusable components that could be used by varying

Coming on to intra enterprise application management scenario, where locations are
spread physically and geographically, application required remote access to services
running on physically distributed terminals. It evolved the concept that’s known with
varying names in various technologies viz. “Remote Method Invocation”, “Remote
Procedure Call”, “Distributed Component Object Model”, “Common Object Request
Broker Architecture” and many more. Making remote calls phenomenon added great
value to the distributed computing. However, all of these technologies required a
dedicated connection to be maintained to bind, listen, send and receive data.

Considering the limitations of two different approaches discussed above, industry felt
the need of having some mechanism that would allow
1. Remote Method Calls without maintaining dedicated connections
2. A centralized way of managing the change in components
3. Better advertising and selling perspectives
4. Cross platform, Robust and Extensible access 

Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Ariba along with other companies came up with an extension to a
common data exchange mechanism that was already being used for data
interchange in EDI and EFT, namely XML. The standard was first named as SDL
(Service Description Language) by MS, but the industry agreed upon a common
name of WSDL (Web SDL). Theoretically, a web application running on any platform,
container or server needed to generate a common format of data for response to a
service request. WSDL is a SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) based standard
that encapsulates the functionality within an XML document.

What are Web Services after all? Web Services are web applications available
through HTTP (that is a stateless protocol and allows asynchronous requests), and
can be requested by any client running on any platform and application, and in
response to the request WS will return data in the form of WSDL, which can then be
utilized to generate a “proxy” or representation library of the web service.
Subsequently, this library can be used in the implementing application and web
service’s methods can be invoked. The mechanism sounds quite similar to RPC and

RMI, but with significant differences of being operated on stateless protocol HTTP
and being able to execute on any platform. Web Services have solution to all the desired functionalities stated as desired.

We’ll now see the answers to questions discussed at the start:
How practical are web services when it comes to implementation: Despite of short
span of Web Services inception, most of the corporates, ISVs and other entities have
started to provide some of their business components’ functionalities through Web
Services. Bablefish Translation provider is a perfect example, which is provided by
legendry search engine Alta Vista. Other examples include WhenU.com’s world
weather service. The benefit implementer gets is the ease of use and freedom to use
in any kind of software.

Are they real, or hype? Whenever a new technology is introduced in the market, it’s
nothing but hype. But as the time grows and technology matures stakeholders
understand the real stand of the technology. Since Web Services concept was
support by industry legends like MS, IBM, Sun, it started in its winning spree within
these organizations, but in a short span all of the other stakeholders understood the
benefits it provides. Oracle.com published a massive article in Oracle magazine that
was titled “Web Services are Real”. The objective was of course to market their
Oracle Portal Server in context of Web Services, but it provided insights of actual
implementation of a Secure Architecture that uses J2EE and Oracle to provide robust
business services. Since the industry is adopting Web Services at a geometric rate, it
is relevant to say “They are Real !”

Why Web Services: It provides an independent, flexible, robust, scalable and
industry wide standard that makes distributed computing peanuts. More benefits are
already discussed.

Who is benefited? : Web Services provide one stop solution to businesses,
developers, consumers and UDDI business registry nodes that “host” the “logical
repository” of web services. Businesses feel more comfortable in version control of
the component/service while developers just have to know the URI of the WSDL of
web services. More significantly they can programmatically search the UDDI registry
using simple SDKs provided by most of the vendors. Ultimate consumers of the web
service can make a SOAP request to the WSDL, ROPE (Remote Object Proxy Engine)
generates a proxy on the fly and remotely methods of the service can be invoked,
there are no hiccups of installation, registration and distribution of the components.

At last we can conclude that Web Services are all set to revolutionize the modern
businesses that deal with distributed computing.