Web services seem like they’ve been around too long already. They’re like a great new Summer song that’s getting old now that Fall’s on the way. Or like your favorite Uncle after he’s been at the house a month and you realize it’s him eating all your favorite breakfast cereal.
OK, so it’s not that bad. But from all you read about them, you would think that they’ve been around forever. And they have if you consider the life span of the average new technology. But I think this is different. Really different. Here’s why.
Web services are actually delivering value. This isn’t just a marginal, incremental improvement - it’s a real change.
By defining a contract between the client and the server that’s easy to understand and based on technology-agnostic XML, Web Services have found a killer app: It makes integrating two systems easy.
Sure - you can do a lot more than just integrate two systems using Web Sevices. But this is a killer app and it’s real.
Here are a couple easy examples:
Exposing business systems to your customers. Every company has back-end systems that they run their business on. And just about every company has web- or extranet-applications that their customers use. How do you bridge the two? Put a web service between them and it’s easy. It no longer matters that one department uses Java and the other uses VB. Everyone speaks XML.
Simplify passing data to suppliers. In the last two years I’ve worked on two e-commerce systems that needed to send orders to fullfillment companies. In one situation we connected via MQ Series; in the other the supplier wrote an application we connected to using RMI. We could have saved huge hours if we had just written a web service and defined everything in XML. (And I could have spent more time re-reading old Seinfeld scripts.)
It’s worth repeating - connecting two discrete systems together is the Web Service Killer App.
But are we really just beginning? You bet. Most corporate IT departments are just getting started with the technology.
- Apache Axis is just beginning its adoption.
- The EJB 2.1 spec isn’t even final yet and will turn every J2EE server into a Web Service server.
- .NET is moving, but most recruiters will tell you that .NET projects have only been staffing in earnest for 6 months or less.
And looking over the current crop of JSR’s listed with the Java Community Process, it’s clear that the whole next generation of Java and J2EE will all be focused around incorporating web services deep into Java. And this won’t even hit production apps for a year.
So (as my kids ask every Summer when we’re driving on vacation), “are we there yet?”
Nope. Not by a long shot.