Web services reinvent Internet

The lowdown

What are they? Web services are self-contained, self-describing applications that can be published and located on the Internet. They let incompatible systems interoperate on the Internet regardless of language, platform or operating systems.

Which do I need? Most experts advise buyers to assess their requirements carefully before investing full-scale in Web services

Must-know info? Industry experts say this will be a watershed year for Web services. Organizations not willing or able to invest in this new technology, at least at some level, will be left behind by those who are.

Web services are heralded as a revolutionary new concept in computing that will gain huge competitive advantages for their users and reinvent the Internet as we know it.

Despite these credentials, or possibly because of them, it seems difficult if not impossible to find a single crisp definition of what Web services are.

"Web services are not the Web and not services, but Internet middleware enabling you to link to customers, partners and operating groups," said George Colony, president and CEO of Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.

"Web services encompass a vision of a fully integrated computing network that includes PCs, servers, handheld devices, programs, applications and network equipment, all working together," said Enrique Castro-Leon of Intel Corp., writing for WebServices.Org, a consortium of Web services vendors and users.

However you want to define it, Web services should include:
  • Extensible Markup Language. XML enables different applications and businesses to share information over the Internet.

  • Simple Object Access Protocol, a lightweight, XML-based protocol for exchanging information in a centralized, distributed environment.

  • Web Services Description Language, an XML language for describing network services as a set of endpoints operating on messages containing either document-oriented or procedure-oriented information.

  • Universal Description, Discovery and Integration. Version 3.0 of the UDDI is the latest registry specification, and is supported by over 200 members of the UDDI consortium (www.uddi.org). UDDI gives organizations and Web services a universal way to convey information about themselves over the Internet.

Web services are still a work in progress, but because they are written to standards, all software designers can at least work from the same basic design. Systems integrators, developers and even in-house IT departments can then add value to the basic design to meet the needs of customers and partners.

J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers. E-mail him at jbmiles@hawaii.rr.com.

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