Article

Successful Web services require standards and strategy

Eric B. Parizo, News Editor

LAS VEGAS -- Web services vendors and developers alike have been focused on standards progress for some time, but experts believe that moving beyond standards is required to develop well-rounded best practices for deploying Web services.

During a panel discussion on best practices for Web services last week at Comdex Fall 2002, Shaun Wolfe, president of Seattle-based integration specialist WRQ Inc., said it is easy to forget that there are two sides to a Web services philosophy.

On one side, adhering to common specifications is essential for long-term success, but Wolfe said that in order to provide a meaningful service, it is just as important to plan how a Web service will integrate with other technologies and whether it will replace or augment business functionality.

However, Mark Colan, IBM Corp.'s lead e-business technology evangelist, said standards development is ongoing and bears watching. He said XML 1.0 and XML Schema are finished standards, but specifications like SOAP and WSDL are still evolving.

Still, Colan said, now is a good time to "think about how to provide Web services in generic, reusable ways" so other systems or Web services can take advantage of them. He recommended using the growing number of profiles designed to help developers do just that, which are available from the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I), a vendor group that was founded by IBM and Microsoft Corp. and which promotes Web services across platforms.

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Practicing Web services

Today, Wolfe said, most integration is still performed in a focused, point-to-point manner, but this methodology creates a fear of making changes.

"Application integration has been around since the second application was written," Wolfe said, which forced developers to find their own nonstandard ways to tie applications together. Tinkering with multiple, integrated systems often causes unforeseen problems, he added, "because you don't know what will pop out on the other end."

Web services promise to change all that by providing integration on-demand, but Wolfe said that promise will be realized only if a company builds reusable components, starts with just the Web services it needs and makes them relevant to as many business groups as possible, not just developers.

The end result, added Colan, is that Web services will eventually enable integration without the need to write thousands of lines of bug-prone Java and C code.

He also said that a company should start small by constructing a Web service that can be measured in terms of its value before, during and after development.

Attendee Mike Freeland, an IT manager for Salt Lake City, said much of the discussion was "a little bit over my head," but he was interested in what types of Web services his organization could provide to other government agencies. Freeland said he hopes to begin experimenting with Web services within eight to 10 months.

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