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it is a sign that whatever they have agreed on has a big future. In the Web services arena, this is exactly what has happened. The development of the open standards for Web services has been an open-industry effort, based on partnerships of vendors and standards organizations.
Of course, it is hard to predict the future, but because of the adoption of Web services protocols (SOAP in particular), the future is very bright.
How Can I Use Web Services?
Now that we have discussed the widespread adoption of Web services, as well as the problems that Web services can solve, you need to decide whether to use Web services in your business, and if so, how to use them. This section provides ideas on how Web services can be used.
If you are an application vendor, you need to have a SOAP API to your application, because it is now a common API for all platforms. If you are a business that provides services to individuals and other companies, the previous section may have provided you with new ideas. If you are an organization that has many legacy systems that work but do not interoperate, you may find that you can easily adopt the Web services model for your business. Because the value of Web services is interoperability, you can use the technologies to solve your business problems, focusing less on the technology and more on your business process. The promise of networked businesses will not be realized until we can rapidly and dynamically interoperate. Within an enterprise, this is called Enterprise Application Integration (EAI). Between enterprises, this is known as business-to-business (B2B).
EAI is currently the killer app for Web services. Because we are at the stage of Web services where legacy applications can be made Web service-enabled via SOAP, EAI is doable now—and this is currently where the real value is. Most analysts believe that organizations will adopt Web services "from the inside out." That is, intranet applications such as enterprise portals, where many data sources are integrated into a federation of data stores, will flourish. In your integration projects, if your systems have SOAP interfaces, integrating them will be easier. Tying together your internal infrastructure, such as Enterprise Resource Planning, customer relationship management, project management, value chain management, and accounting, all with Web services, will eventually prepare you to interoperate with business partners on a B2B basis. More importantly, Web services allow you to integrate your internal processes, saving time and money.
B2B may be the future of Web services. Currently, folks at OASIS are working on standards that provide common semantics for doing business for Web services. This will be the next step in Web services development, and most business analysts believe that organizations that deploy Web services internally
Understanding Web Services
will be prepared for the next boom in a mass B2B marketplace. We feel that there may be an intermediary step: As your organization uses Web service technology to integrate your processes, you may be able to use Web services to do business with your private business partners, performing B2B on a smaller scale on private extranets.
In conclusion, there is a good case for Web services in most businesses. Chances are, you will need to integrate many of your internal systems with an EAI solution, and Web services makes this easy. If your company does systems integration, your integrators should look to Web services to easily connect legacy systems. If your company develops a server software product, creating a SOAP interface to your product will absolutely be necessary, because there is such a demand for Web service-enabled products. If your company is currently pursuing small-scale or large-scale B2B solutions, you should look to Web services as the next step for doing business. Finally, we would like to underscore our point that the near-term evolution of Web services will revolve around EAI.
Understanding the Basics of Web Services
This section gives a high-level overview of some of the basic Web services technologies. In this section, we discuss the following concepts that are fundamental in understanding Web services: Web service message syntax (SOAP), Web service discovery and registration technologies, Web service orchestration, Web service security, and technologies that will undoubtedly shape the future of Web services. Although key standards and technologies will be discussed, this is not meant to present an in-depth technical study; instead, it will provide you with an understanding of how these technologies fit together to deliver the benefits of Web services.
What Is SOAP?
SOAP is the envelope syntax for sending and receiving XML messages with Web services. That is, SOAP is the "envelope" that packages the XML messages that are sent over HTTP between clients and Web services. As defined by the W3C, SOAP is "a lightweight protocol for exchange of information in a decentralized, distributed environment." (http://www.w3.org/TR/SOAP/). It provides a standard language for tying applications and services together. An application sends a SOAP request to a Web service, and the Web service returns the response in something called a SOAP response. SOAP can potentially be used in combination with a variety of other protocols, but in practice, it is used with HTTP.