Web Services

What in the World are Web Services?

Still in the process of evolution (although several early examples are already in use), Web services are an emerging set of standards intended to let Internet-based software applications find and talk to each other without human intervention, no matter if they’re written in Windows, Java or other environments.

Basically, the standards provide a way for programs to post on line descriptions of what they do and how they work (the Web services description language, WSDL), and to automatically search for and identify what other modules are available and how to interact with them (universal description, discovery and integration, UDDI) using standard Internet techniques such as XML. Many issues still remain to be resolved, including security and reliability, let alone the difficulty of ensuring that each developer means the same thing by the same descriptions.

There’s also an inevitable amount of confusion from having three major companies pursuing their own versions of the vision: Microsoft’s .NET initiative, Sun’s ONE and IBM’s Websphere. Nevertheless, it’s reportedly fairly easy to convert existing applications into Web services, and many companies are experimenting with them in house to identify their impact and challenges.

Examples of their usefulness might include ways for S&C systems to find and link to the meeting registration module used by a new CVB, or, for a hotel changing franchise brands, for the new brand’s PMS to be able to discover and link to all the other systems remaining in place at the property.

It’ll take a long time for that level of sophistication to be achieved, but the potential for Web services to greatly simplify and speed up the identification and assembly of useful combinations of systems is clearly there.

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