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Gartner offers another Web services definition

Offering what it calls a common-sense definition with "wiggle room," Stamford, Conn.-based consulting firm Gartner Inc. (www.gartner.com) is advancing what it calls a "common frame of reference" for Web services.

In the Gartner definition, "Web services are software components that employ one or more of three technologies -- SOAP, WSDL and UDDI -- to perform distributed computing. Use of any of the basic technologies constitutes Web services. Use of all of them is not required."

This is at variance with the definition provided by IBM, among others, that defines Web services as consisting of all three -- SOAP, WSDL and UDDI -- of the XML standards.

Speaking at an opening session of the Gartner Web Services and Application Integration conference in Los Angeles last week, Gartner Research Director Whit Andrews acknowledged that many vendors, including major ones, would not agree with the definition.

"We recognize that we don't necessarily share this definition with the enterprises that we talk to," Andrews told attendees at the conference. He explained that the Gartner definition is more in line with the reality of how Web services are currently being used, including the fact that very few Web services implementations make any use of UDDI.

Andrews noted that "Gartner has heard many competing definitions of Web services. In one case, a major vendor representative referred to the File Transfer Protocol as an early Web service, while stricter tongues only certify a facility as a Web service if it meets their alphabet-soup definition. But we believe this definition is useful and reasonable."

While admitting that Gartner's definition is "somewhat oversimplified," Andrews argued that it is a "worthwhile trade-off" because it covers the current range of Web service application development.

He encouraged organizations making their first forays into the technology to experiment with applications as simple as those linking to the Google search engine or Microsoft's MapPoint.

As an example, Andrews pointed to a creative use of MapPoint.Net by Marks & Spencer, the U.K.-based retailer. "Marks & Spencer uses MapPoint .NET to combat credit card fraud," he said. "When the same account number shows up as having been used in multiple stores in a brief time window, this raises an alert. The system then sends the store locations to MapPoint .NET with the request to return a drive time."

If it's not possible to have driven between the two stores in the time between purchases, it means the card is likely to have been stolen, Andrews explained.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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