7 Feb 2003 johnnyb   » (Journeyer)

Someone on Slashdot indicated that CORBA was a decrepit technology compared to SOAP. This was my reply:

Problems with SOAP:

1) It is NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT Object-oriented. In fact, they've stopped calling it the "Simple Object Access Protocol", and have just stuck with SOAP because it has NOTHING to do with object-oriented programming. You CANNOT pass references to remote SOAP objects as parameters and have it work seamlessly with the language.

2) It is not nearly as compatible as CORBA. If you look at all of the current implementations, many of them are almost mutually exclusive. CORBA used to be the same way - a very long time ago. However, these days it is pretty rare that IIOP isn't properly supported between ORBs. So, for ORB portability CORBA is the way to go.

3) CORBA is a complete architecture. SOAP is only the message-passing component, and a very poor one at that.

4) SOAP messages are about 4x the size of CORBA messages, and take a whole lot longer to parse. So if you currently are using CORBA and are filling up a T1 line, moving to SOAP will mean that you need to buy 3 more.

5) (a continuation of 3) CORBA has _language_ support for features such as transactions and security, so you don't have to implement bloody or vendor-specific hacks to implement such things. The CORBA PortableInterceptor interface is a wonderful, wonderful thing. The ability to seamlessly pass context information around without additional coding is quite amazing.

In fact, the SOAP standard itself starts off by listing things where the designers were too bothered to be "simple" to actually implement a complete architecture. From the SOAP 1.1 standard:


A major design goal for SOAP is simplicity and extensibility. This means that there are several features from traditional messaging systems and distributed object systems that are not part of the core SOAP specification. Such features include

* Distributed garbage collection * Boxcarring or batching of messages * Objects-by-reference (which requires distributed garbage collection) * Activation (which requires objects-by-reference)


These are standard features of CORBA. CORBA's Portable Object Adapter is just an amazing piece of technology.

Plus, if you've ever tried to write WSDL vs. a CORBA interface, you'll find that interfaces are much easier.

The only place where SOAP surpasses CORBA is if you are doing document-passing functions rather than parameter-passing functions. For example, if you were sending in a complete invoice (a lot of depth and loosely structured), you might use SOAP. However, for operations where the parameters are fairly structured, CORBA is clearly the winner.

SOAP is an interesting technology for document exchange, but it's role in enterprise computing is highly, highly, highly overrated, and CORBA is a wonderful jewel that so many people overlook out of fear. But really, it's not that complicated.

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