Open source option for developing Web services

Open source presents a viable option for developing Web services if developers are willing to work with tools that are not as easy to use as commercial products, a consultant said during a Web services conference on Tuesday.

Open-source Web services development tools are available, such as the Axis Web services toolkit for Java, said Brian Schenkenfelder, president of n+1, a Linux consulting firm.

"There's a lot out there for Web services," said Schenkenfelder, who focused primarily on Java-based open-source tools during his presentation at the cNet Networks conference entitled, "Building a Web Services Foundation."

The Axis engine enables quick development of Web services, albeit not for complex types such as addresses, he said. The WSDL2Java utility, meanwhile, makes it "very simple to go out and create complex Web services," he said.

Also available is the JBoss open-source J2EE application server, said Schenkenfelder, who cited the Web Services Invocation Framework as useful for developing providers that serve as wrappers for Web services.

The Perl and Python scripting languages provide good support for SOAP, Schenkenfelder added. There also is Mono, an open-source implementation of .Net, and for UDDI directory services, developers can use UDDI4J, a set of Java libraries for interacting with a UDDI server, he said.

There are some drawbacks, however, to open-source development of Web services, Schenkenfelder said. For one, the tools offer varying levels of documentation, and there is a lack of wizard or GUI tools to help build Web services in open source, he said.

"There are no wizards, there are no GUI tools out there to help you create your Web services," said Schenkenfelder. "You have to do it by hand." Tools are command-line-based, he added. "You have to get in more under the hood and learn it, which leads us to the steeper learning curve."

However, with open source, "You can spend not a lot of money and have a fully functional enterprise solution ready," Schenkenfelder said. And with open source, developers do not have to worry about vendors going out of business, being unresponsive, or forcing upgrades to their latest products, according to Schenkenfelder.

"You can upgrade at your own will," he said.

The open-source support model provides for either paid support or for contacting other developers, Schenkenfelder said.

A conference attendee, however, expressed concerns about stability of some open-source projects.

"One challenge I've had is abandonment of a project," said Chris Brooks, CTO at Corillian Corp., a developer of banking software for the Microsoft platform in Hillsboro, Ore. Brooks said he has done some open-source development independently.

"You're still placing somewhat of a bet unless you're playing with one of the major solutions out there," he said.

Schenkenfelder replied that projects such as Axis are stable and that developers still get the source code in open-source efforts, which they do not in commercial projects if the vendor were to go out of business.

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