I know it’s possible to transmit Internet Protocol by carrier pigeon, but I’m not sure I could recommend it to our customers with a straight face. By the same token, I’m continually surprised to hear vendors and consultants insist that Web Services can be done without the web.
Yet I’ve seen that claim repeated all over the Internet. Sure, it’s true in the academic sense. Technically, there’s nothing wrong with “webless” web services, just like IP by avian carrier will eventually get the job done (though latency and packet loss are a challenge). But practically speaking, why would you use anything other than HTTP?
The “webless web services” meme has infected a number of good ideas. The SOAP standard is a case in point. At first, SOAP was a simple XML wrapper around an XML payload. (Remember when the S in SOAP stood for Simple?) Then a variety of industry heavyweights jumped on the bandwagon, and soon SOAP could be used with any protocol.
Nicholas Allen recently shared a great presentation on REST and SOA given by Stefan Tilkov at QCon. Stefan makes some great points about how RESTful web service design aligns well with the goals of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).
Sure, you could use the WS-* stack if you like, but RESTful web architecture is a proven, scalable and truly simple approach, as long as you don’t mind having to use HTTP.
Much of the added plumbing in the WS-* stack is there to help transition older computer-to-computer network communication technologies. It allows applications that depend on CORBA or DCOM to tunnel through firewalls. But unless you’re trying to retrofit a system built before, say, 1998, you can skip all that stuff.
Wasn’t using web protocol the whole point of web services anyway? As Stefan said in his closing comments: “Protocol independence is a bug, not a feature.”
Use a RESTful architecture for new development. Put the web back in web services.