Standards to Drive Services

 
 
By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2002-04-01
 
 
 

Web services are defined in part as programmatic interfaces that build bridges among disparate IT resources. When portal vendors hear things like that, they invariably say, "Hey! Thats what we do."

And, for the most part, theyre right. The main differences among Web services and the applications that make up a portal is that portal applications are usually internal to a company, and they usually arent based on Web services standards such as Web Services Description Language; SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol); and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration, or UDDI.

Still, it doesnt take much to change a portal application into a Web service that can be deployed to external sites. And any portal should be able to accept a Web service as a portal application.

It would be problematic, however, if every portal vendor did these things differently. Understanding this, many of the top portal vendors, including Divine Inc., Epicentric Inc., IBM, Oracle Corp. and Plumtree Software Inc., have been very active in backing and proposing Web services standards that define Web services interfaces and how they deploy to remote portals.

For example, one standard committee recently formed at the XML consortium OASIS, or the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, is working toward defining a standard that will make it possible to deploy Web services to and form portals in a few clicks.

The WSRP (Web Services for Remote Portals) standard is designed to use XML-based Web services technology such as SOAP to make it possible to easily integrate portals and Web services, even if they are built in different languages. More information on WSRP can be found at www.oasis-open.org/committees/wsrp.

Another standard under development at OASIS, and also backed by several portal vendors, is Web Services for Interactive Applications. The goal of this standard is to build a framework for developing interactive Web services, the exact type of service that is most useful on portals and is also very similar to the type of applications developed specifically for portals.

In addition, a recent announcement from IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. detailed the companies backing of a new API that will make it easier to develop portlets that can be easily ported as services among portals. However, since this standard is based on Java, it will apply only to portals that are also based on and work well with Java applications.

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