Next-Gen Web Services

Pushing SOAP 1.1 to its limits, BEA and Systinet raise development bar.

Web services technology has become the universal glue for keeping the pieces of large distributed systems together. Theres been tremendous progress on this front, and two cutting-edge tools from Systinet Corp. and BEA Systems Inc. push SOAP 1.1 just about as far as it can go.

Systinets WASP (Web Applications and Services Platform) Server for Java 4.5 and the complementary WASP Developer 4.5 began shipping earlier this month, providing the most comprehensive set of tools for developing, securing and managing Web services that eWeek Labs has seen. We were impressed enough with Version 4.0 to award it our Analysts Choice designation, and the same goes for the updated Version 4.5.

Meanwhile, the BEA WebLogic Workshop 2.0 beta (available for free trial download from takes Web services development—and, in fact, Java Web application development—in a whole new direction.

BEA WebLogic Workshops visual programming model, XML-based parameter lists and from-the-ground-up Web services integration make it extremely easy to write sophisticated Web service-based applications, including those with message queuing and asynchronous communication.

However, Workshops applications run only on BEAs WebLogic application server. In addition, its high-level approach will probably frustrate experienced Java developers who are now writing WebLogic applications as much as it delights Web page design and Web scripting developers who have had little exposure to Java application server coding.

Developers who are using a Java IDE (integrated development environment) will like Systinets Java- centric data model and its familiar stubs generation/deployment/test cycle. Developers using products such as Macromedia Inc.s Studio MX or writing in higher-level languages such as Visual Basic will find Workshops focus on immediate productivity, as well as its almost complete lack of repetitive boilerplate code, refreshing.

While the creators of development tools and languages were the early adopters of Web services technology, data providers are riding the next big wave of Web services adoption.

All the major databases already support SOAP-based queries through add-on packs; by next year, this support will be deeply integrated into products through adoption of XML-based query languages, the natural counterparts to the XML-based SOAP.

The same is happening with packaged applications, which are gratefully planning the deprecation of proprietary, language-specific APIs in favor of Web services.

Even with some growing pains still ahead, SOAP and XML are already the leading technologies for one-to-many data integration projects, particularly with smaller or newer companies that havent invested in EDI (electronic data interchange) or when the scale of the integration project precludes EDIs heavy hand.

The T-Mobile International AG case study outlines how the telecommunications company uses Web services to aggregate content services for its mobile phone users and to integrate related billing and localization information with content providers.

In another example thats almost business-to-consumer in scope, Inc. uses Systinets C++-based Web services server to provide access to its catalog and order- processing APIs for the host of associates selling Amazon products from their Web sites.

Lightweight, simple, ubiquitous, Web-friendly and well-tested, SOAP is—if not quite a mature adult yet—certainly old enough to be trusted with the family car. And both WASP and WebLogic Workshop show just how far the current version of SOAP can go.