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Salesforce Commerce Solution Guide

How Web Services Will Change E-Business

By Lisa Gill
Feb 28, 2003 4:00 AM PT

Web service
1.A Web service is a software system identified by a URI [RFC 2396], whose public interfaces and bindings are defined and described using XML. Its definition can be discovered by other software systems. These systems may then interact with the Web service in a manner prescribed by its definition, using XML based messages conveyed by Internet protocols.

--World Wide Web Consortium definition

Say what? As clear as the W3C definition may seem to highly technical IT wizards, the concept of Web services continues to elude the rest of the world, masking the massive promise this technology holds for e-business.

After all, Web services perform some impressive functions. In plain English, they allow a company to link its applications with those of its partners, customers and suppliers via the Internet, in much the same way that Web pages are linked together. Therefore, businesses can view and use partners' information as if it were their own.

In the same vein, companies also can link their own applications within the enterprise -- even those coded in different programming languages -- to reduce redundancy and increase efficiency. For example, a corporation might link inventory programs with accounting applications so that changes made in one area automatically affect data in other departments.

How Web Services Will Change E-Business

One Solution To Connect Them All

Columnist Bradley Brown looked at Web services another way, describing their significance as similar to the impact of the RCA phono jack on home stereo systems. Standardization of the jack allowed audio enthusiasts to piece together the best parts of a system -- cassette player, 8-track, turntable and receiver -- rather than using cumbersome all-in-one players or trying to string together components that required competing inputs.

The same model applies to Web services, which are designed to tie together heterogeneous applications across platforms and servers. Both software and hardware companies -- particularly IBM and Microsoft -- have taken up the torch in the last two years, pushing protocols and establishing standards to encourage Web services development.

"We're anticipating that Web services will enable a program to link to another program across the Web so it becomes a Web of applications, of programs, that are interwoven in functionality," Steve Holbrook, IBM program director for emerging e-business, told the E-Commerce Times.

Long Time Coming

'Better, Faster, Cheaper'


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