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Web Services: The Next Revolution

  • February 19, 2002
  • By Bradley L. Jones
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The following is an editorial by Bradley L. Jones for www.CodeGuru.com.

While .NET from Microsoft is only one part of the codingworld, it has been center stage the last few weeks and months.As of last week, .NET is finally a released product that isnow commercially available.

Microsoft likens the .NET technology as a revolution in software development equivalent to the introduction of the PC and the introduction of the graphical user interface (GUI). Like many revolutions, it is stated that the impact of .NET won't be understood for several years -- until after it has been implemented.

The revolution is tied more to the concept of Web Services rather than these other technologies releasedby Microsoft. While Web Services are not the "be all, end all" solution, the concept of Web Services do offer revolutionary promise. I compare this promise to the results that were obtained within the area of communications with the advent of the internet.

In the late eighties and early nineties, a lot of development time was spent creating routines and protocols to get distributed applications to communicate. Many companies were creating their own routines that would use dial-up connections, initialization information, and more. Thiswas a standard method for getting information transmitted to other machines across the country or across the world.I worked in multiple companies where there were programmerswho were dedicated to writing the communication routines sothat the applications at the corporate office could connectwith the machines and applications at the other offices around the country. The internet has provided the means to replace all of this complex communication code with simple calls to standardized routines.

With Web Services, you get the same type of change. In the past you had a number of complex routines -- some even calledstandards -- that you had to work with in order to get differentprograms or functions to talk. These may have been DCOM, CORBA, or some other proprietary means. Depending on what machinethe routine was on, you may have needed to add remote procedurecalls or other additional steps.

The concept of Web Services has the ability to simplify all of this mish-mash into a much more simple, standard. A standard that makes connecting to other applications and routines as easyas connecting to other machines or Web sites on the internet. This takes a huge chunk of complexity out of the programming world. Additionally, it makes it much easier to access functionsthat have been written to stand on their own. If the function is on the internet, then it also makes it possible to access, regardless of where it is physically located within the world.

Microsoft's .NET Platform is, among other things, one of the first programming environments to provide tools for buildingWeb Services. Other companies are also building and releasing tools as well as working on standards for Web Services. It is the release and use of such standards for accessing Web Services that will cause a revolution in the programming world, a revolution as big as the PC and the GUI. .NET and Microsoft are only one part of such standards. These need to be in sync with standards from Sun, Oracle, IBM, and all the other major players. If these standards come together, then life for developers may not only get easier, but move to another level.

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