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   Benefits of SOAP? - was Re: [xml-dev] Sun's senior IT architect Victoria

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On Feb 14, 2004, at 2:07 PM, Dennis Sosnoski wrote:

> The initial buzz around SOAP was all based on the rpc/encoded use (or  
> Microsoft's "wrapped" variation) where method calls were  
> "transparently" exposed as web services. Now that that's effectively  
> deprecated in WS-I BP 1.0 (for good reason) SOAP currently offers very  
> little (if any) functionality beyond what can be done using direct XML  
> interchange over HTTP.

> ...  It's embarrassing when I teach web services to be able to show so  
> little benefit from SOAP, given all the attention it's received.  
> People feel that with so much marketing hype there has to be more  
> substance than I'm able to demonstrate.
Having spent much of the last two years on the work that led to  
http://www.w3.org/TR/2004/NOTE-ws-arch-20040211/  and wrestling with  
this question, I'm very sympathetic to this position.  I came away  
convinced that "Web Services" was invented by marketing people, and to  
even coming up with a somewhat specific definition of the term (see  
http://www.w3.org/TR/2004/NOTE-ws-arch-20040211/#whatis )took a major  
act of diplomacy.  Nevertheless, I kindof like the bit at  
http://www.w3.org/TR/2004/NOTE-ws-arch-20040211/#SOAP  where we talk  
about SOAP (which is no longer an acronym for anything)  being used as  
both a "Simple Object Access Protocol" and a "Service Oriented  
Architecture Protocol", and pointing out that SOAP essentially  
"provides a standard, extensible,  composable framework for packaging  
and exchanging XML messages" in a network-independent manner.  The   
other stuff (like the RPC conventions and datatype encoding) is  
optional. So, "SOAP" as people define it looking forward is not quite  
the same as the "SOAP" that we have known for the last couple of years.

  I have very mixed feelings on what this means about the real success  
of and benefits for SOAP.  On one hand, I agree that there's little  
concrete today on the Web to point to showing the benefits of SOAP, and  
the Visual Studio.NET approach of "transparently" exposing ordinary  
objects as Web services via SOAP and WSDL was, uhh, well "misguided" is  
about the most polite term that comes to mind :-)

On the other hand, even SOAP-RPC  is being used effectively in  
enterprise integration situations where the vendor neutrality, platform  
neutrality, and protocol neutrality of XML/SOAP is necessary and the  
support in tools such as VS.NET is very convenient (at least once  
enterprise developers learn not to shoot themselves in the foot by  
exposing fine-grained object interfaces as Web services).  More  
importantly, SOAP's header extension and processing model, and the  
design pattern of using specialized intermediaries to support specific  
standard headers (such as firewalls that understand WS-Security) is  
showing real promise as the basis for the defacto standard Web services  
architecture being laid down  by the 800 lb gorillas (see  
dnwebsrv/html/wsoverview.asp ... and the "process document" at  
http://www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/offers/WS-Specworkshops/ ).  Of  
course, we shall see if the WS-* stuff actually pays off in practice,  
but there is an awful lot of energy being poured into it.  I sure  
wouldn't want to bet *against* the value of WS-Security and WSBPEL at  
this point.


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