IBM alphaWorks says ADIEU to complex Web services code

Rich Seeley, News Writer

IBM threw a party Monday afternoon in San Francisco to mark the 10th anniversary of its alphaWorks Web site, where it shares early versions of tools with developers.

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 The idea is can we make the creation of Web services so painless, so easy and so quick that we can actually create a large number of Web services and start to leverage a range of Web services.
Chris Spencer
Technologies StrategistIBM

One of the highlights of the day was the debut of "Ad hoc Development and Integration tool for End Users" (ADIEU), an experimental tool for creating Web services using "cards." The cards appear as dialog boxes in Internet Explorer, that can be filled in with information, such as the URL where data is located. Then the cards can be linked together drag-and-drop style to create a Web service.

"It was the brainstorm of one of IBM's distinguished engineers, Sam Adams, who worked on early implementations of SOA," explained Chris Spencer, emerging technologies strategist at IBM.

An online demonstration, which can be viewed on the site, shows how a simple Web service for retrieving stock quotes can be built with just three of the cards.

"One card goes and says what is the stock ticker you're looking for," Spencer explained. "The second card goes out and grabs the information and pulls it back in, and the third card turns it into a Web service."

However, while IBM's press release states that ADIEU allows "end users to develop these applications in an environment designed for non-programmers with an easy to understand interface," Web services programmers need not fear for their jobs.

Spencer was careful to say that "theoretically" end users could create Web services with ADIEU and you didn't have to be a "hardcore programmer." The reason for his caveat is apparent when viewing the online "Stock Quote Demo" on the alphaWorks site. It is true that it appears to be pretty much a matter of filling in the dialog boxes that are the "cards" that create the Web service. But if you don't know what Xpath is, or what strings are, it would take some coaching from a programmer to build even a simple three-card Web service.

Besides developers, the more likely users for ADIEU will be business analysts who, while they are not hardcore programmers, know the basics of Web services standards and coding.

Spencer said that the promise of ADIEU would be to allow both programmers and business analysts to be more productive in creating Web services in a collaborative environment that requires little other than Internet Explorer and registration on alphaWorks.

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"The idea is can we make the creation of Web services so painless, so easy and so quick that we can actually create a large number of Web services and start to leverage a range of Web services," he said.

Spencer's other caveat is that as the name implies alphaWorks is alpha technology, so while developers and business analysts are encouraged to go in and see what they can do with ADIEU, it is not yet ready for a production environment. There is an online forum linked to ADIEU so that users can comment on their experiences with the technology.

The developer feedback is one of the key benefits IBM gets from sharing its experimental technologies, so it can better tune its product development designs to fit into the real world where developers work.

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