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Related Topics: Apache Web Server Journal, XML Magazine, Delphi Journal, Book Reviews

Apache Web Server: Article

XML's Contribution to Web Services

XML's Contribution to Web Services

Professional XML Web Services isn't really an XML book, but more a pure Web services book. The XML part is because XML is used to represent Web services (in the WSDL, for example). The book covers many types of Web services, not just XML Web services (a term that's like a binary executable).

The book consists of 15 chapters. That's not much, if you take into account that it was written by 12 authors. In fact, no author has written more than two chapters. I must admit that my feelings about the result are mixed. Some chapters flow really well and are clear to read, but others take more time to swallow. And although it's usually a good idea to let each author write about his or her favorite topic, in this case it also results in a lot of information that's repeated. The best way to view this book is just as a collection of 15 really long papers. That way you can select a few papers that you need to read at a single time without having to read the book from cover to cover.

The 15 chapters are divided into three parts. The first part contains an introduction into Web services (including a historical overview, which is nice to read) as well as supporting techniques (such as the HTTP and SMTP protocols). While the first chapter may provide interesting background information, there was little news in the second, so I was glad to finish the first part of the book after 75 pages and start on the real content.

The second part covers the Web service languages, in a more or less cross-language way. If this sounds confusing, then allow me to explain that by Web service language the authors mean WSDL and UDDI, while the computer languages to implement Web services are covered in the third part of the book (coming up). The second part contains five chapters, about SOAP Basics, SOAP Bindings, WSDL, UDDI, and implementations of UDDI. The first chapter defines the SOAP protocol, explains about the header, body, and envelope, and provides the groundwork for the following chapters. The chapter about SOAP bindings introduces some examples of the toolkits that will be used more extensively in the third part of the book. The last two chapters of this second part of the book were fortunately written by the same author, since they cover UDDI (the specification) and UDDI implementations (using Java as the main language and IBM's UDDI4J as the main implementation tool). At 112 pages (combined) this would be a bit too much for one chapter.

The third part of the book covers Web services implementations, with chapters for Microsoft SOAP Toolkit 2.0, Easy Soap (C++), SOAP::Lite (Perl), SOAPx4 (PHP), Python, and Apache and Tomcat for Java-based implementations. For most of these implementation tools or environments, a similar set of examples is built, so we can compare them against each other.

It would be nice to have a chapter with an overview about the strong and weak points, but I guess that's one of the disadvantages of having a dozen authors: there's probably no single author with the entire big picture overview to write such a comparison. As a related issue, since a number of tools are covered, we never get into a lot of depth. Or at least not into the level you'd hope for. But perhaps this book will be followed by specific SOAP books, such as the recently published Professional Java SOAP (also from WROX Press).

Anyway, after the tools themselves are covered we get some interesting chapters about "advanced" topics such as Web services security, and two case studies (a Java filesystem case study and the WROX auction case study).

The appendices start with a reprint of the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) 1.1, taken from the W3C note issued on May 8, 2000 (in Appendix A), and the Web Services Description Language (WSDL) 1.1, taken from the W3C note issued on March 15, 2001, and finally material from the UDDI version 2.0 Data Structure Reference UDDI Open Draft Specification from UDDI.org, dated June 8, 2001. The index is a bit short at 25 pages, but uses a tiny font, so a lot of keywords are listed (without significant bias toward one chapter or another).

The book focused mainly on SOAP 1.1. Before it was published (in September 2001), the first Working Draft of the SOAP 1.2 Specification was made available, but the introduction (as well as Chapter 3 on SOAP basics) explains that since there were no implementations supporting this Working Draft, they decided not to cover it in any detail. Too bad that the back cover promises "an overview of SOAP 1.2" next to a "detailed explanation of SOAP 1.1." But perhaps a new edition later in 2002 will remedy that.

The book doesn't contain any source code, but as usual the source code samples can be downloaded (2.54MB) from the WROX Web site, where you can also read a sample chapter (Chapter 3 about SOAP basics). Apart from the WROX Web site, you can also visit www.drbob42.com/books for other book reviews.

I enjoyed most of the chapters, and although I don't use all the languages and implementations that were covered, I still think this is a book I'll get back to once in a while. If you're looking for a book to learn about SOAP and Web services using different tools such as Java, C++, Perl, PHP, and Python, this is a good one. If you already know which tool you'll be using, then you may want to look for a specific book for your SOAP environment, to get more in-depth examples and coverage.

Professional XML Web Services
by Patrick Cauldwell, Rajesh Chawla,
Vivek Chopra, Gary Damschen, Chris Dix,
Tony Hong, Francis Norton, Uche Ogbuji,
Glenn Olander, Mark A. Richman,
Kristy Saunders, Zoran Zaev

Published by WROX Press
Pages: 803
List Price: $59.99

More Stories By Bob Swart

Bob Swart (aka Dr.Bob at www.drbob42.com) is an IT consultant, developer, reseller, author, trainer and webmaster for his company Bob Swart Training &Consultancy (eBob42) based in Helmond, The Netherlands.

Bob has spoken at Delphi Developer Conferences since 1993. Bob is co-author of several books, including C++Builder 5 Developer's Guide, Kylix Developer's Guide, and Delphi 6 Developer's Guide, as well as a contributing author for numerous computer magazines.

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