Web Services in Theory and Practice

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Ready, Set, Take Advantage
The Web has changed more than how people communicate with each other—it has increased their desire for round-the-clock full access to information and content. Web services technology will help satisfy this desire. Web services programs are already helping companies meet the needs for accessing and updating information in real time, but more technology development is required before Web services can reach their full potential.

Eventually, say the analysts, Web services will allow one to weave the Web into the fabric of a company, its content and its infrastructure, making the Web as easy to use as electricity. With electricity plugging in is a simple one-step process; Web services will someday make plugging your company into the Web just as simple.

Now is the time to start planning your business strategy for Web services, even though all of the logistics aren't in place yet. They will be within a few years and you want to be in a position to offer the services your customers will ask for.

Sidebar: Web Services Standards

There are a number of standards in use and others are under development, so the problem isn't the lack of standards. Several consortiums—such as the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and OASIS—are developing Web services standards and developmental models. Some of the standards these groups are working on are fully completed, but some development is still underway.

Major computer companies such as IBM, Sun, Microsoft, and others are also working on standards for use in Web services. As Web services continue to develop, you will hear about different standards being released and approved. You do not need to know all the acronyms and whose standard is being used more than someone else's.

The fact that the standards are still being developed isn't enough of a reason for companies to hesitate investigating or adopting Web services. But be aware that, unless some standards win out over others and soon, Web services development and adoption will be held back. As more and more companies take on the role of early adopters, the decisions they make will help push the standardization process along.

Alan Kotok, managing editor of Science, and co-author of ebXML: The New Global Standard for Doing Business on the Internet, says the problem isn't a lack of activity nailing down standards, it's more the need for a compelling vision. "Web services badly needs more of a central and overriding vision. End users need, and want, a framework that connects the Web services dots and demonstrates interoperability among the various functions. Individual standards are good, but a Web services vision is much better."

Kotok feels that the two initiatives that appear to get this part of the message are ebXML and WS-I. The ebXML specifications focus on business-to-business interactions, specifically messages, registries, company profiles and agreements, business processes, and semantic interoperability. WS-I defines a subset of the interoperability.

Companies Featured in This Article

Gartner, Inc. www.gartner.com
Hurwitz & Associates www.hurwitzassociates.com
Layer 7 Technologies www.layer7tech.com
MyST Technologies www. myst-technology.com
OASIS www.oasis-open.org W3C www.w3.org
WRQ, Inc. www.wrq.com
WS-I www.ws-i.org

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