Read an excellent article on the O'Reilly Network about How to build a simple Web Service using MS's ASP.NET. It's easy for a Java person like me to skip through, and it highlights several really interesting things:
- MS's IDE makes it really easy to make a method available via SOAP, including an informational Web page about what methods are available, plus simple forms to access them. A lesson to us all in ease of use and how to demonstrate it.
- Web Services are are staggeringly unambitious --- it's just remote procedure calls via XML. Possibly the most uninteresting so-called revolution since XML!
Web services (by which I mean SOAP, plus UDDI which is a directory service) is helpful in getting businesses to work together, but it doesn't make it any easier to create the services (you still have all the uptime problems) and it only makes possible a very limited subset of services --- i.e. remote procedure calls. This is clearly very very limited. It doesn't help me if I'm an ISP and I want to offer connectivity and hosting; it doesn't help me if I want to offer a database or storage service with localised caching (which all decent DBs do); it doesn't help me if I want to sell you a system which adds a search engine to your site; and so on and so on. Sure, some of these examples could work via remote procedure calls, but that's not something that should be enforce on them.
Okay, rant finished. For now.
Had more fun yesterday catching up on all the changes over the last fortnight, including a couple of cool new classes from Andy, which allow more streamlined remote management of applications. Previously these were very simple. Now a command can be overloaded with different types sent to it, and they take I/O streams. For example, it's now very easy to stream local a file into a remote application. Given that these comms are also now SSL-enabled that's really fabulous.
A couple of open source developers mailed asking to do something network related, and it appears they have problems accessing Jtrix services through their firewalls. Perfect! We've worked out a really neat way of proxying Jtrix in a variety of ways. Hope they'll be able to work with us on that. It will certainly scratch their itches. And it will also be able to handle SOAP really nicely using the same system. Which brings us back to where we started.