XML is used to encode all communications to a Web service. For example, a client invokes a Web service by sending an XML message, then waits for a corresponding XML response. Because all communication is in XML, Web services are not tied to any one operating system or programming language--Java can talk with Perl; Windows applications can talk with Unix applications.
Beyond this basic definition, a Web service may also have two additional (and desirable) properties:
First, a Web service can have a public interface, defined in a common XML grammar. The interface describes all the methods available to clients and specifies the signature for each method. Currently, interface definition is accomplished via the Web Service Description Language (WSDL).
Second, if you create a Web service, there should be some relatively simple mechanism for you to publish this fact. Likewise, there should be some simple mechanism for interested parties to locate the service and locate its public interface. The most prominent directory of Web services is currently available via UDDI, or Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration.
So, what is really new about Web services? The answer is XML.
XML lies at the core of Web services, and provides a common language for describing Remote Procedure Calls, Web services, and Web service directories.
Prior to XML, one could share data among different applications, but XML makes this so much easier to do. In the same vein, one can share services and code without Web services, but XML makes it easier to do these as well.
By standardizing on XML, different applications can more easily talk to one another, and this makes software a whole lot more interesting.
3 :: I keep reading about Web services, but I have never actually seen one. Can you show me a real Web service in action?If you want a more intuitive feel for Web services, try out the IBM Web Services Browser, available on the IBM Alphaworks site. The browser provides a series of Web services demonstrations. Behind the scenes, it ties together SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI to provide a simple plug-and-play interface for finding and invoking Web services. For example, you can find a stock-quote service, a traffic-report service, and a weather service. Each service is independent, and you can stack services like building blocks. You can, therefore, create a single page that displays multiple services--where the end result looks like a stripped-down version of my.yahoo or my.excite.
Service Transport: This layer is responsible for transporting messages between applications. Currently, this includes HTTP, SMTP, FTP, and newer protocols, such as Blocks Extensible Exchange Protocol (BEEP).
XML Messaging: This layer is responsible for encoding messages in a common XML format so that messages can be understood at either end. Currently, this includes XML-RPC and SOAP.
Service Description: This layer is responsible for describing the public interface to a specific Web service. Currently, service description is handled via the WSDL.
Service Discovery: This layer is responsible for centralizing services into a common registry, and providing easy publish/find functionality. Currently, service discovery is handled via the UDDI.
More succinctly, XML-RPC = HTTP + XML + Remote Procedure Calls.
Because XML-RPC is platform independent, diverse applications can communicate with one another. For example, a Java client can speak XML-RPC to a Perl server.
To get a quick sense of XML-RPC, here is a sample XML-RPC request to a weather service (with the HTTP Headers omitted):
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>
The request consists of a simple element, which specifies the method name (getWeather) and any method parameters (zip code).