TECH TALK: Tech’s 10X Tsunamis: Web Services (Part 2)

Tim OReilly connects the dots to describe how web services will evolve into an Internet operating system:

So much of the industry emphasis in web services has turned to EAI and B2B type applications that a lot of people miss the real transformation that is happening. Once they have SOAP or XML-RPC (or even REST-style) APIs, web-facing databases become program components. [Amazon Web Services article]

To me, these programmable components are all the various large Web-facing databases, and the equivalent of the build-your-own-driver school of programming are the Web spiders that access those services programmatically. Web spiders, including unauthorized interfaces built by screen scraping, are one trail of breadcrumbs we need to follow when looking at the functionality that an Internet operating system will need to provide. [Interview in The Rational Edge]

Bit by bit, we’ll watch the transformation of the Web services wilderness. The first stage, the pioneer stage, is marked by screen scraping and “unauthorized” special purpose interfaces to database-backed Web sites. In the second stage, the Web sites themselves will offer more efficient, XML-based APIs. (This is starting to happen now.) In the third stage, the hodgepodge of individual services will be integrated into a true operating system layer, in which a single vendor (or a few competing vendors) will provide a comprehensive set of APIs that turns the Internet into a huge collection of program-callable components, and integrates those components into applications that are used every day by non-technical people. [Inventing the Future]

Anil Gadre of Sun takes this one-level further ( column):

Developers shouldn’t need to think about the OS; they should be able to aim higher, at a new software category I call the “service-delivery platform.”

The aim of the service-delivery platform is to make it just as easy for developers to create a large-scale service as it was to create a single shrink-wrapped program for a standalone PC. Developers need to know that certain components are always going to be there–a directory, a network file service, an application server. Those are the components of the service-delivery platform.

Although part of the base platform, these components may also come from a variety of companies offering open-standards-based technology, so long as they present a set of core services that developers can count on–and no proprietary extensions or libraries to cause porting problems.

Information Week (May 27, 2002) gives an example of how it is making a difference to Dollar Rent A Car Systems Inc., which initially saw Web services as just a simpler way to connect partners to the company’s reservation system. Writes Rick Whiting:

Before Dollar started using Web services, tour operators had to rely on an EDI connection to book a car reservation electronically with the Tulsa, Okla., company. That was expensive and inflexible. Building an interface took as long as two months, and it had to be rewritten if the system on either side changed. Now, tour operators book reservations by sending a text message using HTTP protocols. The company’s Microsoft BizTalk server parses that message using Soap and WSDL Web-services protocols unique to each operator to book the reservation.

A major benefit for both Dollar and its partners is that Web services provide a direct way to make reservations without using a global distribution system such as Sabre Holdings Corp. or Galileo International, which charge a transaction fee. However, Web services have also made Dollar’s relationship with Sabre more data-rich. Dollar built its rate engine, which calculates rates by class of car, on Web-services protocols, so Sabre can integrate that information directly into its systems. That means when a travel agent booking a flight on the Sabre system wants to add a car rental, the rate data is fed directly from the Dollar rate engine to Sabre.

Dollar also uses Web services to make it easier for customers to connect to its Web site from Internet-enabled mobile devices.

Web Services is the 10X force which is redefining the present and future of Software.

Additional Reading:

Tomorrow: Open Source

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.