Next-Generation Web Services: Lay the foundation

Getting excited about Web services simplifying enterprise computing? From Oracle's perspective, you should think again.

Don't worry, the emerging application model will indeed create a more user-friendly software landscape, an Oracle executive said here Friday. But a truly successful Web services migration must go way beyond embracing core standards such as XML, WSDL, and UDDI and wrapping everything in SOAP, said Thomas Kurian, senior vice president of Oracle9i application server, during a keynote at InfoWorld's Next-Generation Web Services II: The Applications conference.

"We believe that every one of you out there will use Web services technology," Kurian told attendees. "But while standards continue to proliferate, there are lots of things you need to think about."

Among myriad things to consider are picking a development and deployment platform for Web services, figuring out how to access them easily and integrate with other applications and legacy data, and finally, devising a method to secure, monitor, and manage them, he said.

In terms of development, Web services as an application model for the Internet will take different forms, Kurian said. They can be standalone services or represent a composite of several Web services that can also be orchestrated as part of a business process. Eventually, users must consider how Web services might fit into a peer-to-peer model, where services communicate solely with each other via an abstraction layer.

As Web services proliferate in an organization, companies will need to find a way to keep track of them all and provide pervasive access. Oracle is promoting the concept of a Webtop or device portal that has the capability to identify and authenticate users, offer search capabilities, and add semantics to individual Web services so they are easier to find, Kurian said.

As predicted widely, Web services will simplify application integration through XML and standard interfaces; however, users will still need to compensate for the lack of built-in data translation and transformation capabilities.

"Even if the interface is XML, the purchase order in Oracle9i applications is not the same as the purchase order in SAP, for example," said Kurian. Oracle advocates a Common Data Model to overcome the transformation issues.

Most importantly, quality of service requirements such as security, availability, monitoring, and management cannot be ignored. To get all these features, Web services should sit on top of commodity-level hardware and systems software such as a database, application server, and transaction monitor to ensure failover, load balancing, and security, Kurian said.

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