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What should I consider to decide if Web services is appropriate to my project?

I'm trying to figure out if Web services makes sense for my integration project. Can you tell me some factors that I should take into account to decide if it's appropriate?

Those organizations that require Web services have a need to access both information and application services that exist in local and remote information systems. Typically, these problem domains have the following characteristics:

  • There are redundant application services that exist at two or more systems.
  • There is a need to create a new application that satisfies a business need, but is also able to leverage aggregated application services from remote systems.
  • The information residing within the source or target system is of significantly less value when decoupled from the services.

When applying Web services technology to solve application integration problems there are patterns or architectures to consider as well. These are:

  • event-driven
  • composite; and
  • autonomous-distributed.

It's also correct to consider these solution patterns as an evolution of the Web services integration technology over time, as well as options.

Event-driven Web services solutions refer to those architectures that deal more with information movement than application service aggregation. Data moves from system to system in support of a particular business transaction, but there is also a requirement to access application services. For instance, moving order information from system to system and company to company to support the purchase of a car, or employing a common Web service to calculate logistics information, sharable by all source and target systems. This is a hybrid architecture that mixes both Web services and traditional application integration technology, such as integration servers.

Composite application solutions refer to architectures that require many application services to aggregate into a single instance of an application. Organizations have been dealing with this paradigm for years as component-oriented programming, where many predefined application components combine to create a single application. However, within the notion of Web services, the application components reside on a remote computer, and the Web services are accessed as pieces of an application. For instance, the master application that monitors shipments invokes a series of Web services (running on remote computers) that provide application services for logistics processes, least-cost routing, billing, etc. Going forward this will be the most popular architecture for Web services since it's closest to the concept. Autonomous-distributed solutions refer to those architectures where the Web services are so tightly coupled that they appear as a single application. This is the final destination for Web services, binding many applications together, inter- and intra-company, into a single unified whole. However, the proliferation of this architecture is years away.

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