Web Services - Architecture
There are two ways to view the web service architecture:
- The first is to examine the individual roles of each web service actor.
- The second is to examine the emerging web service protocol stack.
Web Service Roles
There are three major roles within the web service architecture:
This is the provider of the web service. The service provider implements the service and makes it available on the Internet.
This is any consumer of the web service. The requestor utilizes an existing web service by opening a network connection and sending an XML request.
This is a logically centralized directory of services. The registry provides a central place where developers can publish new services or find existing ones. It therefore serves as a centralized clearing house for companies and their services.
Web Service Protocol Stack
A second option for viewing the web service architecture is to examine the emerging web service protocol stack. The stack is still evolving, but currently has four main layers.
This layer is responsible for transporting messages between applications. Currently, this layer includes Hyper Text Transport Protocol (HTTP), Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), and newer protocols such as Blocks Extensible Exchange Protocol (BEEP).
This layer is responsible for encoding messages in a common XML format so that messages can be understood at either end. Currently, this layer includes XML-RPC and SOAP.
This layer is responsible for describing the public interface to a specific web service. Currently, service description is handled via the Web Service Description Language (WSDL).
This layer is responsible for centralizing services into a common registry and providing easy publish/find functionality. Currently, service discovery is handled via Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI).
As web services evolve, additional layers may be added and additional technologies may be added to each layer.
The next chapter explains the components of web services.
Few Words about Service Transport
The bottom of the web service protocol stack is service transport. This layer is responsible for actually transporting XML messages between two computers.
Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP)
Currently, HTTP is the most popular option for service transport. HTTP is simple, stable, and widely deployed. Furthermore, most firewalls allow HTTP traffic. This allows XML-RPC or SOAP messages to masquerade as HTTP messages. This is good if you want to integrate remote applications, but it does raise a number of security concerns.
Blocks Extensible Exchange Protocol (BEEP)
This is a promising alternative to HTTP. BEEP is a new Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) framework for building new protocols. BEEP is layered directly on TCP and includes a number of built-in features, including an initial handshake protocol, authentication, security, and error handling. Using BEEP, one can create new protocols for a variety of applications, including instant messaging, file transfer, content syndication, and network management.
SOAP is not tied to any specific transport protocol. In fact, you can use SOAP via HTTP, SMTP, or FTP. One promising idea is therefore to use SOAP over BEEP.