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Title: Web Services: Building Blocks for Distributed Systems
Author: Graham Glass
ISBN: 0-1306-6256-9
Publisher: Prentice Hall, Inc.
Pages: 247
Price: $39.99 USD

Reviewed by Anne Gunn

Rating: 4 out of 5

This book might well have been subtitled “A SOAP/UDDI Primer.” The author, Graham Glass, is a true Web Services enthusiast and does discuss, in glowing terms, the potential that Web Services have to transform the Web from an environment where information-is-all-around-us to one where computation-is-all-around us. But the bulk of the book is a pretty straightforward overview of SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), WSDL (Web Services Description Language), and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration).

As a primer, the book does a pretty good job. Glass has a few simple functions that he presents as examples of the kind of operations that can be easily packaged as Web Services. He then shows how they can be coded and invoked across the Web. His examples build in complexity throughout the book, ending in a “case study” that ties together three Web Services, two written in Java and one in C#, hosted in three different platforms: .Net, J2EE, and Glass’s own Glue. His coding examples (in Java, mostly) are clean and readable and should be easily understood by anyone with high-level programming experience. The book, at 247 pages, reads quickly if you aren’t working through the coding examples at the same time. So much of the text is either code samples or graphics that you can get through it in one longish plane ride.

The price of the book, $39.99, IS a bit steep for just a primer. If you want to get right down to coding your own Web Services for a commercial application, you’ll probably want to start with another book; dozens have been published recently. However, if you are a technical manager or technical lead and are just trying to get up to speed on the topic, say to help evaluate whether your own technology is a suitable candidate for packaging as a Web Service, this book could provide you good value for the money. It has a clean, concise description of how all the components work and fit together, with enough detail you may be able to get a general picture of what you’d have to do to your own code to publish it as a Web Service. The “Challenges” list in Chapter 1 could even give you enough material to fend off a premature push by management to make you move to a Web Services packaging (although I’m sure that’s not what Glass intended). Or, if you just want to get some quick, hands-on time with Web Services and don’t have one of the “big” platforms (such as .Net or J2EE) installed, the Glue platform on the CD could worth the price of admission for the book. (See below.)

The accompanying CD includes both the sources for the examples from the book and Glass’s Glue Web Services platform. Glass says that Glue, while proprietary, is “easy to learn, installs without hassle, and is free for most commercial uses.” Providing a copy of Glue, while certainly plugging Glass’s own company and technology to an unusual extent, does mean that the reader can install and try most of the examples with nothing more than a Java compiler and the JDK 1.1 or above. (A disclaimer, though: The CD was cracked in the copy of the book I got and I have not had a chance to try the examples and Glue myself.)

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