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Development: Web Services Hurdles

Book Excerpt: When to Use Web Services

 

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August 16, 2004 (Computerworld) -- The following is excerpted from "Web Services: A Manager's Guide," by Anne Thomas Manes with permission from publisher Pearson Education, copyright 2004, publishing as Addison-Wesley.

There are many compelling reasons to use Web services.

It seems as if everyone is at least playing with Web services. Almost every software vendor is building support for Web services into its platforms, languages, and tools. Web services enable any-to-any integration, supporting any programming language, any runtime platform, and any network transport. Technologies such as SOAP and WSDL are simpler to use than traditional integration middleware technologies, and they offer much more flexibility. When combined with domain-specific industry standards, Web services enable unprecedented dynamic interaction. More to the point, they can make it easier for your partners and your customers to do business with you. Best of all, the low cost, pervasiveness, and simplicity of the technology lets your existing staff do more with less.

Web services can be used for many types of applications. Nearly every application requires some integration effort, so I'm sure you can find a way to use Web services in almost any project. After you get a little experience under your belt, you'll very likely adopt Web services as a standard integration technology. When you're just getting started, though, it's always best to limit your scope. Start small. Spend some time learning about the technology. Then you can apply your learning to larger projects. One nice feature of Web services is that you can use them incrementally. There's no need to tackle an enormous project all at once. I recommend that you use Web services in places where they are likely to have a big impact.

Bell Ringers

Which applications would benefit most from Web services? Where should you start? What are the key criteria that should ring a bell your head and make you think, "This is a job for Web services"?

Heterogeneous Integration

The first and most obvious bell ringer is the need to connect applications from incompatible environments, such as Windows and UNIX, or .NET and J2EE. Web services support heterogeneous integration. They support any programming language on any platform. One thing that's particularly useful about Web services is that you can use any Web services client environment to talk to any Web services server environment.

For example, JPMorgan uses Web services to connect Excel spreadsheets to UNIX-based financial data. JPMorgan operates the global wholesale businesses for J.P. Morgan Chase. JPMorgan is a leader in investment banking, asset management, private equity, custody and transaction services, middle market financial services, and e-finance. The firm has financial analysts in more than 50 countries around the world. These analysts needed a way to upload and download financial, forecast, and other relevant data used in their spreadsheets to and from various legacy application systems.

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