The Myths Of Web Services in Business Use


It’s clear that Web services have entered the mainstream. Indeed, many financial services companies have recently made public their enterprise commitment to Web services technology, include Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo and VISA International. However, there are still many misunderstandings about how Web services add business value and the state of readiness of the technology for business-critical deployment. There’s clearly a need to clarify what Web services can accomplish and to dispel some misconceptions about the readiness of the technology. This article will try and dispel five common myths about Web services.

Myth One: Web services standards are immature or incomplete

xmlThe power of Web services lies in the standards that underpin the technology, and the unprecedented level of support these standards enjoy. Based on widely-adopted industry protocols such as eXtensible Markup Language (XML), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web Services Description Language (WSDL), and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI), Web services can easily integrate wildly-different applications, written in different programming languages and running on different operating systems and hardware, while using universally-available Internet protocols like Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

SOAP is reminiscent of previous message-passing protocols that didn’t quite deliver – the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) is an example. SOAP can be used to build connections between applications, which can then be described using WSDL, which provides all the information necessary to connect to the service. UDDI is where Web services can be registered and subsequently discovered and reused.

Taken together, these three standards define how to build, deploy and discover Web services. All three have been revised and improved under the auspices of well-respected standards bodies such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). At the last count the Burton Group, an IT research and analysis firm, catalogued over 35 Java implementations of SOAP and WSDL. Few would disagree: these standards are mature and complete. But what about other standards?

Within the past year, several additional standards have emerged that make Web services an even more powerful integration technology for the financial services community. For example, the WS-I (Web Services Interoperability) Basic Profile specification has ensured that all Web services work well together, which allows financial services companies to integrate disparate systems effectively. In addition, Web Services Security (WS-Security), another industry standard, has helped promote message-level security of Web services.

As simple as it is to create Web services today, there is widespread interest in supporting financial business projects that go beyond simple and relatively synchronous applications. To solve more complex integration problems, we need extensions to SOAP messages that guarantee message delivery, eliminate message duplication, and provide for message ordering. We need Web services that converse in a loosely coupled and asynchronous manner.