Author: SOAP is simple

SOAP is simplifying XML messaging and the resulting integration is speeding business applications, according to Scott Seely, author of a new book on the Simple Object Access Protocol, SOAP: Cross Platform Web Service Development Using XML, from Prentice Hall PTR, Saddle River, NJ.

Being simple, one of SOAP's key advantages is that developers can learn to work with it in a couple days, Seely contends, while more complex standards such as CORBA can take weeks to master. The short learning curve and simplicity leads developers to increasingly deploy SOAP to solve cross-platform problems.

For example, he says developers for a cable company, which he wouldn't name, recently deployed SOAP and XML to handle multiple Remote Procedure Calls across a firewall between the customers on the Web front-end and the back-office order processing system.

"They had a mainframe system handling the ordering system and Windows boxes for the Web server front end," Seely said. "When subscribers would order cable modems, the systems weren't very well integrated and the batch processing took a real long time."

Because of delays of 24 hours or more in processing the orders via the overnight batch update system, it was becoming a customer service nightmare. For example, if a customer phoned back an hour after placing an order to have a cable modem delivered and wanted to change the delivery day, the customer service representative could not find the original order, which would not show up in the order processing system until the next day.

Using SOAP and XML to carry data across the firewall made it possible to resolve cross-platform issues. It eliminated the old method of storing the procedure calls for the overnight batch run. Performance was improved from 10-to-20 seconds per order to one-to-two seconds per order.

Seely anticipates that over the next six months SOAP interoperability will reach a point where cross-platform applications using the standard will help eliminate problems such as overnight delays between placing a Web order and fulfillment.

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About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.