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What are Web Services?

Web Services are a new family of generic Web applications. They are self-contained, standardized modular applications and they are self-describing. They can be deployed, located and simultaneously invoked all over the Internet. Web Services perform various functions and tasks that range greatly in implementation.

Today, when you need light in a room, all you do is flip a switch and you get light. You don't think of electricity anymore, since it's all a big part of our daily lives. The same thing is happening now with the Internet. People think less and less about it everyday, since it too is now a big part of our daily lives. Web services need the Internet to operate between each other, in a similar fashion as electric appliances need electricity to function.

Web Services can perform a multitude of various functions as simple as initiating a request, to transacting complex mathematical functions used in the financial industry or in processing large quantities of data spread over a very large network such as the Internet. Web Services can provide a simple service such as a single stock quote or carry-out large transactional credit card processing and clearing services.

What makes Web Services so crucial?
Most industry experts agree that Web Services are certain to be at the center of the next generation of distributed systems and vast IT networks used in global business. The future of Web Services is in the smooth integration of disparate software systems, often running on many different operating platforms.

Web Services provide the "generic ground" necessary today, where all computer systems from any global supplier or vendor can easily communicate and interact seamlessly with each other.

The seamless integration of Web Services is the interoperability between vast and very different families of disparate systems. The main advantages of developing, integrating and deploying newer Web Services or migrating existing applications onto a newer Web Services platform are:

      Easier application interoperability, inside & outside the Enterprise
      Improved vertical integration with suppliers & vendors, increasing ROI
      Improved application deployment options for developers & Web Services
      Optimization of existing applications & the investments made in them

What is unique about controlling Web Services?
Web Services constitute new programming challenges in many different fields of endeavour. Since they basically are modularized applications that are self-contained, that are self-describing, that can be easily deployed, identified and invoked across the Web, conducting extensive testing of all these Web Services constitute a major achievement and also a challenging task in itself.

Ideally, in a perfect world, Web Services are designed so that they can interact with each other, with or without human intervention or using outside forces. Used in such an environment, Web Services do not inherently display a user interface that can be easily tested or verified using common principles. Furthermore, Web Services strive on interoperability, which means that .NET-based services should be able to pole, access and in return be accessed by any standard J2EE-based application.

This all means that independently of the operating platform on which Web Services are built, they have to be successfully tested and satisfactorily verified using all variations of possible client applications, ie: .NET-based, based on J2EE, python-based, Perl-based, etc. etc. A specific Web Service can also aggregate other Web Services to provide higher-level features or commands.

For instance, a Web Service could provide high-level logistics features by orchestrating lower-level Web Services used in the trucking industry, air cargo or travel industry or rail transport industry.

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