This Year's Buzz in Web Services
It was never intended to wind up this way. Once a bastion of tyrannical control overseen by a few anointed organizations, the open source movement has ensured that software interoperability has become a matter of the masses. In recognition of these efforts, Developer.com is pleased to announce the 2006 Web Service Product of the Year award. Based on input from our readers, nominees were accepted and subsequently voted on over a several month period. Without further ado, here are your nominees:
- Altova XMLSpy, by Altova
- AmberPoint Express, by Amberpoint, Inc.
- Apache Axis, by the Apache Software Foundation
- The Google Web APIs, by Google, Inc.
- Microsoft Visual Web Developer, by Microsoft Corporation
Next to security, performance testing remains perhaps the most commonly ignored tasks within development circles. Why this is so is somewhat of a mystery, given the significant downside an organization could incur should the application prove incapable of meeting the demands of its clientele. One could imagine the neglect has historically had something to do with the inherent difficulties in creating an environment capable of satisfactorily testing the application in a manner that enables the developer to determine not only the application's performance boundaries, but also offering the developer clues as to what specifically must be changed in order to improve efficiency.
As applied to Web services, the challenges are even more pronounced due to the need to monitor for numerous potential bottlenecks located within any one of several required components. Specifically, one must be able to come to a conclusion as to whether performance issues are caused by the client, service, network, or any combination of the three. AmberPoint Express, developed and distributed by namesake AmberPoint, Inc., handily resolves many of these dilemmas by offering a complete solution to performance testing and real-time monitoring. Available for both Java- and .NET Framework-based solutions, AmberPoint Express offers developers a powerful tool for the real-time analysis of metrics such as response time, throughput, SOAP faults, and for the review, editing, and resending of SOAP messages. Capable of reviewing up to one hour intervals of message traffic, developers can use forensic analysis to diagnose and resolve performance issues.
AmberPoint Express is available for free download (registration required), and integrates seamlessly with Visual Studio .NET (compatible with both .NET Framework versions 1.1 and 2.0), Apache Tomcat/Axis, and IBM WebSphere, with a future version slated to support BEA Weblogic.
While there's no question XML greatly reduces the amount of interoperability work involved in connecting multiple applications, these capabilities don't come at the wave of a magic wand. Tasks such as creating and editing XML-based documents, bridging languages, debugging scripts, and managing projects haven't gone away; they've just appeared in new forms. A nominee for last year's Developer.com Development Utility of the Year, Altova XMLSpy is easily the most capable all-around solution for hard-core developers. Capable of facilitating all of the aforementioned tasks and so freakishly much more, this product offers unrivaled support for managing numerous facets of the Web services development and management process.
The Apache Software Foundation has built a solid reputation around fostering the development of great software. Enjoying its second consecutive nomination for Developer.com's Web Service Product of the Year Award, Apache Axis (http://ws.apache.org/axis/) is an ideal representative of the impressive efforts put forth by the many contributors to this organization's various software projects. An implementation of the SOAP protocol, Axis removes much of the tedium surrounding encoding and decoding of SOAP messages by generating the code necessary for both publishing and consuming web services. This allows you to focus primarily on the application's features, and less on bolting each component together.
Used within numerous high-profile products such as BEA's Weblogic Platform, the IBM WebSphere Application Server Community Edition, JBoss, and the Oracle Web Services Manager, Apache Axis is making it's mark as one of the most capable and reliable solutions for managing the otherwise ugly Web services plumbing.
Microsoft Visual Web Developerhttp://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/express/vwd/
Offering a GUI-based SQL query designer, drag-and-drop components such as banner ad rotators, file upload mechanisms, and calendars, wizards for configuring site enhancements such as user membership creation and login, a mechanism for saving commonly used custom Web controls, and much more, Visual Web Developer can greatly reduce the time involved in building a capable and useable website.
And the Winner is... the Google Web APIshttp://www.google.com/apis/
Almost since its inception, Google has established a track record of launching new services on a regular basis. Particularly over the past few years, the pace of evolution has been stunning with services like Google Mail, Google Mobile, Google Earth, Google Blog Search, and Google Answers changing the way we interact with the Web in unique ways.
Of course, even in spite of all the buzz generated by these new services, Google's most valuable asset remains to be the gargantuan search repository that it has amassed over the years. Continuously updated and containing billions of documents, users can find information regarding darned near anything through the google.com interface. However, rather than necessarily force users through the corporate home page, Google has opened the doors to this data by releasing an API which enables developers to incorporate both Google's search capabilities and indexed data into applications of all sorts.
Because the API is accessed through a Web service, developers are free to use it within any Internet-enabled application, be it on the Web, desktop, or mobile device. Further, you're able to take advantage of Google's search behavior, such as the spell checker.
Although still in beta and limited to just 1,000 queries daily, it's apparent that the possibilities created by the Web APIs are limited only by your imagination. For example, you could use it for fairly standard purposes such as creating a custom interface for searching your own website, or for somewhat more focused tasks such as monitoring open source trends in specific countries by tracking the frequency a particular term is mentioned on websites using say the .it domain extension (for Italy).
If you're in need of a custom search engine, you could do worse than have billions of documents at your disposal, not to mention managed in its entirety by a separate organization. That said, definitely consider giving the Google Web APIs a try!
About the Author
W. Jason Gilmore (http://www.wjgilmore.com/) is the open source editor for Apress. He's the author of the best-selling "Beginning PHP 5 and MySQL: Novice to Professional" (Apress, 2004. 758pp.). Along with Robert Treat, Jason is the co-author of the forthcoming "Beginning PHP 5 and PostgreSQL 8: From Novice to Professional", due out at the conclusion of 2005. Jason loves receiving e-mail; so don't hesitate to write him at wjATwjgilmore.com.