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Roundtable: What exactly are Web services?

What exactly are Web services? We asked leading authorities on the front lines of this technology to respond. Here's what they had to say.

Our Roundtable Panel Members
Steve Benfield Annrai O'Toole Dave Chappell Dirk Slama
Cape Clear
Sonic Software
Shinka Technologies

Welcome to this Roundtable Q&A. We posed our roundtable question to several leading authorities to gain insight from the experts in the trenches.

searchMiddleware: There continues to be a hype factor surrounding Web services. What exactly are Web services?

Steve Benfield:
"Web services are a subset of a service-oriented architecture. Each piece of business functionality is encapsulated into some sort of object/component that is then made available as a stand-alone service. Pretty basic stuff, really. What turns a service into a Web service is that it uses XML-in and XML-out for parameter and return value passing and that the service is accessible through a standard wrapper. It also has some easy-to-use protocol such as HTTP or SMTP. So you send XML to a URL. Magic happens. XML gets returned. Pretty simple.

A proper Web service has a SOAP wrapper along with a description written in WSDL. If the service is public, it will be registered with some registry, most likely using UDDI. The registry might be private to your organization, public to the world, or available in an industry-specific registry. The services you create will be made available to others who need them."

Annrai O'Toole:
"There's a huge amount of hype and indeed confusion around Web Services. At its most basic level Web Services are defined using WSDL, are accessible using SOAP, and registered using UDDI. Any Web Service needs to conform to those basic principles."

Dave Chappell:
"Web services are standards-based, reusable, Internet-friendly component interfaces for solving the application integration challenge weather within the enterprise firewall or over the Internet. Standard applications for common business goals that can communicate easily and over long distance or globally. It's the standardization of enterprise application integration (EAI)."

Dirk Slama:
"Let's try to de-compose this term:

Web: Web Services are leveraging existing Internet infrastructure to enable easy, efficient system-to-system interaction, based on XML, URL, HTTP, SMNP, and other well-established Internet standards. Since many corporations have also based their internal networks on Internet infrastructure technology, this means that Web Services can be equally useful in EAI and B2Bi scenarios.

Services: while distributed objects were all the rage in the 1990ies, people have started to realize that the object paradigm often fails in distributed systems, leading to performance and scalability problems. In a sense, Web Services are a simplification, returning to the separation of data (XML) and functionality (RPC)."


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Bio of Steve Benfield [ Back to Top ]
CTO of SilverStream
Steve Benfield is Chief Technology Officer. He joined SilverStream as the Director of eBusiness Strategy when the company acquired Bondi Software in December 2000. Steve has more than 15 years of experience delivering innovative Web & IT solutions. Steve helped form Bondi Software in 1998 and has served as VP of Consulting and Chief Technology Officer. His duties at Bondi included strategic management, technology direction & training, and business development. Prior to Bondi, Steve was Director of Technology for Financial Dynamics (FDI), a 225 person IT consulting organization, where he managed FDI's Sybase relationships and was head of the PowerBuilder consulting practice. While at FDI, Steve researched Java-based Internet solutions and was instrumental in FDI's Java research initiatives. During this R&D period, Steve helped form FDI's SilverStream practice which led to the formation of Bondi after FDI merged with Ciber.

Bio of Annrai O'Toole [ Back to Top ]
CEO of Cape Clear
O'Toole leads the corporate strategy and plays an active role in the ongoing management of Cape Clear. Prior to joining Cape Clear, O'Toole founded and served as Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of IONA Technologies. O'Toole remains on the board of IONA and several other new technology companies.

O'Toole began his career working with many European and international standards bodies to develop standards for software interoperability. With these and other initiatives, he has helped define the direction of the computer industry. He holds an MSc in Computer Science and an Electronic Engineering degree from Trinity College, Dublin.

Bio of Dave Chappell [ Back to Top ]
CTO of Sonic Software
David Chappell is vice president and chief technology evangelist for Sonic Software Corp. Dave has over 18 years of industry experience building software tools and infrastructure for application developers, spanning all aspects of R&D, sales, marketing, and support services. Dave has also been published in Network World magazine, Java Developers Journal, XML Journal and Java Report. Dave has presented technical topics at numerous speaking engagements including JavaOne, XMLOne, and XMLDevCon. David Chappell is co-author of "The Java Message Service", published by O'Reilly & Associates. This book is currently the first and only book on JMS available in the market today.

Bio of Dirk Slama [ Back to Top ]
CEO of Shinka Technologies
Dirk Slama spearheads the Shinka mission to transform diverse corporate IT systems into unified e-business environments. As CEO and co-founder, Dirk Slama provides strategic and operational direction for all facets of the company's business, with a focus to achieving industry leadership in the e-business integration marketplace. With a deep commitment to excellence, Dirk Slama has assembled a top-notch team, with technical experts focused on delivering quality products and professional services, and support by a skilled marketing and sales operation. An internationally recognized expert in enterprise application integration (EAI), Dirk Slama is the author of "Enterprise CORBA," a top-selling book on systems integration strategies.

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