Prudens Information Resources for the Internet


Web Services

Computing, Software & Infrastructure

A Prudens E-Report

Data Processing on the Web | Web Services Framework | Enterprise Web Services | The Future of Web Services



Data Processing on the Web

Web services are the computer applications that are available to users over the Internet regardless of the user's software and hardware environment. Web services may be conceived as a form of cooperative computing between two parties on the Internet, or as a session between existing members of a grid, which is known as grid services. The idea behind web services is that if data on different web sites is defined, or structured, in the same way then distributed computing using the resources of those sites can take place.

HTML formats local data to be displayed on a distant browser. To use HTML data in a calculation a request is sent from the receiving site to the sending site where the calculation is made and the results sent back to the receiving site. This approach to the computation of web-based data is speeded up (and reduces network traffic) by formatting the data in the Extensible Markup Language (XML). This allows the use of the same data definitions on each site by sharing a Data Type Definition (DTD) file or anExtensible Markup Language (XML) Schema (schema), which is a type of DTD that is transported between sites. It therefore allows computations to occur on the site where the results are needed.

The Web Services Framework

The first step of web services is to identify which sites have specific kinds of data and which sites have the applications necessary to process the data. The second step is to establish the DTD or schema for the sites, and the last step is to transmit the software, data and results between sites. Since HTTP is designed to transmit HTML files, the XML data must be hidden or "wrapped" to appear as HTML files.

These steps and the standards used are:

Enterprise Web Services

In theory, an enterprise can use services provided by any other organization, but since it may be difficult to identify or authenticate the other party, web services will first be implemented

However, the merging of web services and grid services will help to widen the number of potential application providers and users.

Outside of the firewall, every company has to interact with a range of third parties and vendors in order to carry out its mission. For example, every sales organization has to interact with different financial institutions, depending on the buyer, to arrange the terms of a sale. But, companies will be reluctant to make sensitive customer information and pricing schedules available to unknown organizations. This could evolve as known and trusted organizations begin to make web services available.

On the other hand, retail organization want everyone to know the prices of its products and services. So web services are being used to interact with intermediaries in consumer, or B2C sales. For example, eBay and Amazon make product descriptions and prices available to intermediary or affiliated sites. This information is read directly off the originating web site and posted on the affiliated sites without human intervention - and is always accurate and up-to-date!

The Future of Web Services

After an early standoff, between Web Services Interoperability Consortium (WS-I),1 backed by IBM and Microsoft, and the Liberty Alliance,2 which is led by Sun Microsystems and AOL, it appears that the open standards approach of the Liberty Alliance is winning. IBM recently joined the Liberty Alliance with the explanation that its customers wanted an open source solution.

The open grid standards of the Globus Project are also being combined with the these open source web standards to develop the Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA).3 The use of open standards in grid computing will allow and encourage the use of web services over a grid and will eliminate the need to further develop grid services.

Several other factors will guide the adoption of web services:



Endnotes

1. Web Services Interoperability Consortium (WS-I) (http://www.ws-i.org/)

2. Liberty Alliance (http://www.projectliberty.org/)

3. Information on the adoption of OSGA specifications at the Globus Alliance can be found at (http://www.globus.org/ogsa/)



Dr. James E. Burke is a Principal in Burke Technology Services (BTS). BTS provides business assistance to startup technology companies, or organizations planning or integrating new technologies; develops and manages technology projects; performs technology evaluation and commercialization, and assists in technology-based economic development.

Related Prudens e-Reports: Grid Computing | P2P Computing | Semantic Web


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