[thelist] Web services - what's the difference?

Aaron Johnson lists at cephas.net
Fri Dec 13 10:30:01 CST 2002

Hey Peter,

What a great question!

> As far as I understand, web services are server side application that Take
> Care Of Something, like credit card processing, online payments or searching
> through a huge database. You create a web service and it works.
 -- basically correct..

> Very nice to have, of course, but where is this different from the old way
> of processing credit cards, paying online and searching through huge
> databases? We created some server side programs in the language of our
> choice and it worked.
 -- ah yes... the difference is that depending on what you wrote your
server side application in, others can't invoke your application
remotely and reuse it.  For example your credit card processing server
side application.  Let's say I work for another division in your company
and I also want to charge cards.  I'd ask around and maybe find out that
you have some code that does what I need.  Before web services, I'd
probably have to get the source code from you, compile it, and run it in
my own environment... using a web service, I don't need the source code,
I can just point my application to use your remotely invokeable(word?)
application and be on my merry way. Additionally, web services are
typically self describing, so I might not even need to call you to find
out what the parameters are for such and such a function... in fact, I
can even find out what functions are available simply by viewing the
WSDL.  In the last couple months I've been working on an ASP site that
will soon be charging credit cards. They decided to use some credit card
processing software called Viawarp which would live on a server on their
internal network. So in order to charge a credit card from the cluster
of ASP servers, I had to think of some way of getting these two machines
to talk... how would you do it? DCOM? maybe, but that's not very

> So currently I'm thinking that the term 'web services' is one more in the
> long string of meaningless market-isms that engulfs the Web.
 -- I'm personally pretty excited by web services... in our own
organization we've been able to extend our bugtracking system to our
clients administration screens (ie: where they manage their
content/site) through a webservice.  So in the past, if they wanted to
see/create bugs in our bugtracking system, they'd have to open a new
browser window, go to http://tracker.mindseye.com/, enter their
username/password, and then create a ticket. Now, they have their site
manager application window open and they can create and view tickets
right there... no second browser window necessary.  Very cool stuff.

The idea behind
> web services is solid, of course, but there isn't much difference with the
> old situation.
 -- again, depends on what your old situation was... XML-RPC?  then
you're right, it's not much different.


Aaron Johnson
ajohnson at cephas.net

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