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In the Age of Smart Infrastructure

During the past 30 years, we have seen the Internet change from a basic set of transport protocols to an expansive application platform that supports complicated transactions and large-scale data transport. But during the past two years we have seen the rise of a completely new type of Internet service. This is the concept of the "Web Service," a structured set of data that can be discovered, authenticated, bundled and used without any particular client interface and without direct human interaction.

Doug Cavit has served as Chief Information Officer for McAfee.com since July 1999. Since that time he has led McAfee.com's IT and Web strategy, developing the site into one of the world's 50 most highly visited Web destinations. McAfee.com also now ranks as the 8th largest technical site, and has recently earned the distinction of being the largest paid subscription service on the Internet.


In the Age of Smart Infrastructure
Building a Smarter Infrastructure and Living with It

During the past 30 years, we have seen the Internet change from a basic set of transport protocols to an expansive application platform that supports complicated transactions and large-scale data transport. But during the past two years we have seen the rise of a completely new type of Internet service. This is the concept of the "Web Service," a structured set of data that can be discovered, authenticated, bundled and used without any particular client interface and without direct human interaction.

The Web Services Paradigm

Web Services are "intelligent" applications delivered via the Internet. The types of services that can be delivered as Web Services are limited only by the types of applications that can consume them. Web Services share some important characteristics. Web Services are:

  • Platform independent
    Any Web Service exists independently of the platform on which it is to execute. There are applications that employ standards, such as XML or simple object access protocol (SOAP), on many major computing platforms, including cell phones and PDAs.
  • Device-scalable for computing power
    The amount of local processing power that can be applied to these services varies as a function of the computing power in the client device. Web Services are unique in that they can recognize the limitations inherent on the client device and therefore pre-format or process the data as required.
  • Data-ready across device types
    No longer do we have to pre-populate data to meet particular platform requirements. We can set-up the data in a generic form that can then be transformed on the fly. The same dataset, with no changes, can be shared by two computers in a business-to-business (B2B) transaction or by a consumer from a cell phone.
  • Data-flexible
    Since XML provides us with self-referential data, referring to both the content and the type of content it contains, we can use it in many flexible ways. The data is organized and can be manipulated by the client device (e.g. PC, notebook, PDA, cell phone) to perform offline operations without having to interact with the service originating the data.
  • As a practical benefit, using Web Services means that the consumer can manipulate information, up to the full power of his client device, without requiring long waits or depending on the way someone else pre-structured the information. This feature comes into it's own when consolidating information from various sources and then presenting it on a single local machine.

    This opens up the possibility for providing even greater customization of data as well as the concept of companies adding value to existing data by helping end users process and interpret the information. Web Services also removes a major stumbling block for B2B transactions. Typically, companies build custom data transfer applications for each commercial data transfer requirement. Every partner a business works with has a different format and a custom implementation. Now companies can build generic Web Services that provide information to partners who can then reformat and move the data into their internal systems.

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    Copyright 2001, McAfee.com. Reprinted by permission.

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