Ove r view of W eb ser vice s in VB.NET

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XML Web serv ices can rev olut ionize t he way applicat ions ar e delivered t o client s in a way t hat par allels how t he I nt ernet changed t he delivery of cont ent t o com put er users over a Web. Web ser vices suppor t a widely adopt ed set of st andards for com put ers shar ing infor m at ion wit h one anot her. Alt hough t he consum er of a Web serv ice can be a com put er user , it can j ust as easily be anot her applicat ion. I n t his way, Web serv ices support dist r ibut ed com put ing. Because t he Web services st andards are so widely
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adopt ed and rest on XML for m at , y ou can creat e Web serv ices solut ions t hat have a very far reach in t erm s of t he num ber of plat for m s t hat t hey can suppor t . This sect ion builds on t he init ial int r oduct ion t o XML Web services in Chapt er 8. I nst ead of highlight ing it s under lying t echnologies, t his sect ion explores how y ou can t ap t hese t echnologies wit h Visual Basic .NET and SQL Ser ver 2000. I n addit ion, t he sect ion exam ines pot ent ial kinds of applicat ions t hat are especially suit able for Web serv ices solut ions. Ele m e n t s of W e b Se r vice s D e sign An XML Web serv ice is a t echnology for invoking procedures rem ot ely on anot her com put er. A Web ser vice server applicat ion exposes procedures t hat are invoked by a Web serv ice client applicat ion. As indicat ed in Chapt er 8, XML Web serv ices rest on a m ix of open- ar chit ect ur e t echnologies. This open t echnology st ance and t he abilit y t o int erchange dat a bet ween loosely coupled com put er s in XML form at m ake Web services av ailable acr oss com put er m anufact urers and soft ware vendor s t hat subscr ibe t o t he open st andards. Web services t echnology is special for a v ariet y of t echnical and inst it ut ional consider at ions. For exam ple, leading and com pet ing vendor s are, in fact , observing t he open st andards. I t seem s highly lik ely t hat XML Web serv ices will r evolut ionize how com put ers from differ ent vendors using differ ent operat ing sy st em s work t oget her. This enhanced int er oper abilit y, in t ur n, prom ises t o v ast ly expand t he num ber of soft ware opt ions available for perfor m ing t ypical com put er - based t ask s, such as cust om er r esour ce m anagem ent . Because XML Web serv ices are so easy t o im plem ent wit h Visual St udio .NET and SQL Serv er 2000, your personal oppor t unit ies should adv ance subst ant ially as you increase y our underst anding of t his em erging t echnology. Building a Web service is a m ult iple- st ep process t hat r est s on a var iet y of t echnologies, such as t hose discussed in Chapt er 8. Happily, t he Visual St udio .NET int erface shelt ers developers from m any of t he det ails of UDDI , WSDL, and SOAP t hat im plem ent t he plum bing for XML Web ser vices. Visual St udio .NET pr ovides graphical t ools for handling som e of t he det ails fr om which it doesn t fully shelt er you. A Visual St udio .NET dev eloper can st ar t building a Web serv ices solut ion as sim ply as select ing t he ASP.NET Web Service t em plat e when creat ing a proj ect . You choose t his t em plat e from t he New Proj ect dialog box in t he sam e way t hat t his book previously descr ibed select ing a t em plat e for a Windows applicat ion or an ASP.NET Web applicat ion. Because Visual St udio .NET facilit at es building Web services solut ions based on ASP.NET, t he New Proj ect dialog will at t em pt t o set up a pr oj ect on a Web
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server , such as your localhost . For t his at t em pt t o succeed, your work st at ion m ust have access t o a Web serv er wit h t he .NET Fr am ework and your account m ust have aut hor ing perm ission on t he Web server. The Web serv ice applicat ion will hav e a default nam e, such as Serv ice1.asm x. Alt hough Visual St udio .NET uses ASP.NET t o build a new Web service, t he ex t ension .asm x especially m ar ks t he pr oj ect as a Web service applicat ion. You can im plem ent a Web serv ice wit h a class obj ect ( alt hough t here are ot her legit im at e im plem ent at ions) . Wit hin t he class, y ou can select ively expose som e m et hods. These exposed m et hods are called Web m et hods. Those m et hods t hat you expose are the ones t hat client s of t he Web ser vice can inv ok e rem ot ely. By t hinking of t he Web service as an obj ect , you can t hink of Web m et hods as t he m et hods of t he obj ect . These exposed m et hods can r et urn a value or a collect ion of v alues. The whole idea behind a Web serv ice is t hat anot her applicat ion exist s t hat can invok e or consum e t he Web m et hods exposed by t he Web service. This applicat ion can be any client applicat ion t hat can connect t o and inv oke t he Web serv ice, such as a browser, a Windows applicat ion, or anot her Web serv ice. This client applicat ion can be loosely coupled t o t he Web service. I n ot her wor ds, t he client can hav e a connect ion t o t he Web service t hat isn t persist ent . I n addit ion, t he com put ers running t he client and Web service applicat ions can be running differ ent operat ing syst em s ( for exam ple, Windows and UNI X) . Client applicat ions m ust be able t o lear n about t he availabilit y of Web services from vendor s befor e using t hem . I n ot her words, t hey need a way t o look up available serv ices. This dir ect or y funct ion for XML Web serv ices is t he r ole of UDDI ( Univ ersal Descript ion, Discov ery, and I nt egrat ion) . You can t hink of it as a y ellow page dir ect ory of XML Web services. One rout e for regist ering and looking up Web serv ices is ht t p: / / www.uddi.or g. The UDDI sit e also provides gener al suppor t feat ures for t he UDDI t echnology , such as a list ing of com panies support ing t he t echnologies. As I writ e t his, m ore t han 200 com panies have agr eed t o support t he UDDI t echnology , including Micr osoft , I BM, Sun Micr osyst em s, SAP, Com paq, and Dell. Aft er surv ey ing a list of prospect iv e vendors wit h XML Web ser vices of t he t ype y ou seek, y ou ll likely select one for m ore due diligence. For ex am ple, you ll want t o lear n about t he specific input s and out put s associat ed wit h a Web ser vice. WSDL ( Web serv ices Descript ion Language) is an XML- based language for descr ibing t he input s t o and out put s from a Web service. The client for a Web serv ice act ually int er act s wit h a local pr oxy for a Web serv ice. WSDL can represent t he r em ot e Web service t hrough t he local proxy. For t y pical applicat ions, you don t have t o generat e t he WSDL. This is
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because Visual St udio .NET gener at es t he WSDL code aut om at ically . However, because WSDL is XML, you can read it . Ty pica l XM L W e b Se r vice Applica t ion s I n t his sect ion, I speculat e about what m ight be som e t ypical Web serv ice applicat ions. I ex plicit ly use t he t erm speculat e because t he t echnology and it s pr act ical applicat ion ar e st ill in t heir infancy. Ther efore, y ou can use t his book t o build t he next ( m aybe t he fir st ) killer Web service. Even if I only get you st ar t ed on t he way t o t his goal, I will consider t his chapt er a success. Anot her out com e for t he chapt er is t o acquaint you wit h t he k inds of input s and out put s t hat y ou can expect t o use wit h Web serv ices. A Web service can t ypically do one of t hr ee possible t ask s.
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Pe r f or m a ca lcu la t ion. For exam ple, a Web serv ice can am or t ize a loan or perform advanced st at ist ical or financial com put at ions. As w it h any Web service, t he im port ant point will be t o supply a resource not easily or cost - effect ively duplicat ed or one wit h wide appeal. Look u p a r e su lt or se v e r a l r e su lt s. You m ight develop a Web service t o gener at e local t ax es in different j urisdict ions giv en t he post al code of a buyer. Essent ially, t his is a lookup operat ion based on t he t axing aut horit ies for a post al code. Many sm all or m edium - size businesses m ay find it m ore cost effect ive t o pay a sm all m ont hly pr em ium for accessing t his t ax dat a aut om at ically t han m aint ain it accurat ely for t heir individual operat ions. Ex e cu t e a n ope r a t ion , such as a dat abase insert , delet e, or updat e operat ion. For ex am ple, m any sm all businesses seek a cost - effect ive solut ion for adj ust ing inv ent or y when logging a new or der. The new or der can lead t o one or m ore inser t s in t wo or m ore t ables. The adj ust m ent t o invent ory can be a change, specifically a r educt ion, t o t he curr ent unit s on hand for a product .
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Web services can exchange dat a bet ween a client applicat ion and Web service applicat ion v ia XML docum ent s. Because t he lay out of XML for m at t ed dat a is so flexible ( r ecall t hat you can have any t ags you want ) , you can adapt XML Web services for wor king wit h m any differ ent t ypes of business dat a. For exam ple, supplier s can query m anufact urer s for t he specifics of work orders, including a shipm ent s quant it y and due dat e. Because XML Web services are accessible from br owser s, field em ployees can ent er t he t im e and m at er ial char ges associat ed wit h client v isit s wit hout ret urning t o t he head offices. Concurr ent ly , client s can look up t heir charges based on visit s fr om field r epresent at ives. By securing access t o records based on SQL Serv er or Windows securit y, a Web ser vice
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can rest r ict access t o charges for t he appr opriat e client . Ot her candidat es for Web services solut ions include rem ot e access and updat ing of cust om er resour ce m anagem ent syst em s and or der processing fr om order ent r y t hrough shipping, order st at us repor t s t o cust om ers, and billing. W e b Se r vice s f r om V isu a l St udio .N ET A Web service applicat ion built from t he ASP.NET Web Ser vice t em plat e is a class wit h a special at t r ibut e, nam ely t he WebService at t r ibut e. You don t hav e t o m anually add t he at t ribut e t hat declar es t he class a Web service, but y ou will t ypically want t o edit a default at t r ibut e set t ing. The at t ribut e aut om at ically assigns a nam espace ( nam ely , ht t p: / / t em puri.org) for t he class im plem ent ing a Web serv ice. Micr osoft st r ongly r ecom m ends t hat you change t he default nam espace nam e because client s requir e unique nam espaces for t he Web services t hat t hey r eference. The WebService at t r ibut e for a class also enables you t o assign a nam e t o t he Web serv ice.
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