WebCollage Fills Interim in Web Services

Web services are coming-at least they are if companies such as IBM, Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and every other Web application, server or portal vendor have anything to say about it.

Web services are coming—at least they are if companies such as IBM, Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and every other Web application, server or portal vendor have anything to say about it.

However, although solid core standards such as XML (Extensible Markup Language) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) will provide the base for Web services, there are almost as many competing standards as there are companies when it comes to a standard for developing interfaces and markup for Web services.

Businesses that want to build Web services for customers or business partners will need to have their developers commit to one of the competing standards and hope it wins. Or they can turn to WebCollage Inc.s WebCollage Syndicator 2.2, an interim technology that will allow them to convert current content and applications into Web services while they wait for the dust to clear in the standards battles.

WebCollage Syndicator, originally developed for creating Web channels for content syndicators, fills this interim need by providing a relatively simple-to-use platform for extracting Web content for use as a Web service.

Using WebCollage Syndicator 2.2, which shipped in June, eWeek Labs was able to take several Web applications, as well as content from Web pages, and repurpose them as a Web service.

The product uses specialized tags that are placed within existing Web pages. These tags are then read by a server component that extracts the service and provides an interface for partners or customers who use the service.

Although this approach lacks the high levels of extensibility and flexibility that come from the developer-based approaches being proposed by the major vendors, it does work. And because WebCollage is completely based on XML, services built using it should work with future standards.

In addition, although developer-oriented approaches to Web services are often tied to a specific dynamic Web language or application server, WebCollage Syndicator worked with several languages and can work with any application that outputs HTML.

Prices for WebCollage Syndicator are based on the number of applications and partners, starting at $50,000. The server component of the product runs on Windows-based servers and on Unix, running as a plug-in to either Microsofts Internet Information Services or iPlanets Enterprise Server.

WebCollages tagging language, Web Services Markup Language, is simply an XML markup that has been defined for WebCollages server component. The syntax should be familiar to most Web developers; in tests, creating a service mainly meant defining what areas of a page or application to include and exclude from the service.

For example, to define a section of code as a service, it would simply have the following snippets of code before and after it: and .

Once the tags are added to content, the service is then defined to the server using a browser-based administrator interface. Using this interface, we could configure settings for a service and define which partners would have access to it.

WebCollage Syndicator assumes that the services will be delivered to partners and customers using the partner interface on the server component. However, the current standards movement is moving heavily in the direction of using SOAP and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) to deliver and define access to Web services.

It is possible to define a WebCollage Web service to use SOAP and UDDI, but doing so requires developer skills that, if you have them, mean you probably dont need WebCollage Syndicator. The next version of the product will include built-in support for defining a service to use SOAP and UDDI, WebCollage representatives said.

Other features provided through the server component of WebCollage Syndicator include reports on usage, which can also be made available to partners, and support for single sign-on across services.