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Why Use Web Services?
Do Web Services Solve Real Problems?
One of the major indicators of a successful technology is its ability to solve problems to help organizations do business.
So, we have integration problems, but we want to solve them quickly. People want to see return on their investments as soon as possible. How can you repurpose your existing assets without being disruptive to your organization's business process? How quickly can you change given new market conditions? The problem with solutions in the past is that integration efforts have taken too long, and we have created new stovepipes by creating inflexible, hard-to-change architectures.
Although it sounds like a paradox, a key reason businesses were so quick to adopt Web services was that other businesses adopted Web services. This agreement only took place because the technology can solve these integration problems by providing a common language that could be used in integration— both within and between enterprises. Without agreement on a common language, there would be no interoperability.
Agreement on a technology that works is more important for business than debating which technology works best.
In the past, there have been battles over what protocols and computer languages to use. At one time, there was debate over whether TCP/IP would be the dominant networking protocol. When it became the dominant protocol for the Internet, other protocols used that as a foundation for transport, including HTTP, which became the protocol for use over the Web. HTTP became a widely supported application-layer protocol, and SOAP was developed using HTTP as its foundation. Now that major businesses have adopted SOAP for the communication medium between applications and servers, this ensures that everyone's applications have a chance to speak a common language. Web services are based on SOAP and represent our current state of evolution in communication agreement.
Because there is such widespread agreement and adoption of the Web service protocols, it is now possible to leverage the work of your existing applications and turn them into Web services by using the standard Web service protocols that everyone understands. Web services allow you to change the interfaces to your applications—without rewriting them—using middleware. An example that should have a profound impact is that with easy-to-use middleware, .NET clients and servers can talk to J2EE servers using SOAP. The implementation of the underlying application is no longer relevant—only the communication medium.
Understanding Web Services
Wasn't CORBA Supposed to Solve Interoperability Problems?
CORBA, the Common Object Request Broker Architecture, provides an object-based approach for distributing computing in a platform-independent, language-independent way. In the 1990s, CORBA's main competitor was Microsoft's DCOM. Some people believe that because of the friction between these two technologies, because of the complexities of CORBA, and because object request brokers (ORBs) were necessary for these technologies to work, there was no unanimous adoption.
SOAP is also a platform-neutral and language-neutral choice, but a major difference is that it has widespread industry support.
Today's business strategies are demanding more intercompany relationships. The broad spectrum of companies means a broad spectrum of applications and integration technology choices. Companies who succeed in this market realize that flexibility is everything. To interoperate with many companies and applications in your business, you need a common language and a way to solve problems in a dynamic environment. Web services provide this framework.
Is There Really a Future for Web Services?
This may be the most important question for you to ask. One thing that we've learned over the past 10 years is that a technology's success is not dependent on how well it works or how "cool" it is—most of the success is based on business decisions that are made by major business players. Many well-thought-out, well-designed technologies now languish in the graveyard of useless technology because they were not widely adopted. When many key businesses begin using a technology and begin touting it, there is a good possibility that the technology has a future. When all key businesses begin using it and evangelizing it, there is an even greater possibility that the technology has a future. When the technology solves key problems, is simple to understand, and is adopted by all key businesses, its success in the future is nearly ensured.
One of the major indicators of a successful technology is its adoption by key business players.
The maxim that we defined in this section seems to be a good way to partially predict the success of Web services. One of the main factors that is driving this market is business adoption. When giants such as Microsoft, IBM, Sun, and the open source community agree on something, it is not only a major milestone,