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Web Services & XML

Web Services & XML

This month the whole JDJ crew, minus Mr. Briggs, was at the Hilton in central Manhattan for our JDJEdge conference. It was a great show with much discussion regarding the state of our industry and where it's heading.

As usual the old "Web services" debate was high on everyone's agenda, discussing what exactly it means for us. I'm not too excited about the whole Web services revolution. Personally, I think it's just a marketing gimmick to repackage old products and technology.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for opening up our systems, but Web services hasn't actually delivered anything new, merely packaged up the technologies we've already been using. I guess what it has managed to achieve is to bring "open systems" to the forefront and get people thinking about the best way to create them. So from that point of view I say, "Hurrah." However, I still cringe when I hear the phrase "Web services" mentioned in any conversation. As you can imagine, this standpoint doesn't make me too popular within SYS-CON circles, now that we have the Web Services Journal.

Another debate that I managed to catch, which was very interesting, was the overuse of XML formats. This debate had some major heavyweights behind it; it was something that I've felt for a long time but for some reason I never heard it discussed. Maybe there were underground debates raging with people not wanting to go against the almighty XML revolution; I don't know.

Anyway, the underlying issue here is that XML is too verbose, inherently slow, and not suitable for all applications. Controversial I know, but an issue I fear that has to be addressed. The majority of uses I've seen for XML are on the whole a good use of the technology. It does the job well, communicating the metadata alongside the data so both parties know exactly what is going on. However, this comes at a heavy price, in terms of both transmitting and parsing.

Now that Java has gone mobile, coupled with the fact that the bandwidth is limited with the processing capabilities, we quickly see that XML is a little too bloated for mobile applications. I witnessed a number of wireless applications that were using an XML format to communicate between the server and the device. I asked if anyone else would be accessing the server, and was answered no, it was a closed system. So why on earth use XML as the format for passing data back and forth? As pretty as angular brackets are, think before you use them; they aren't always the best way forward.

There was an interesting press announcement at JDJEdge that piqued my interest. Merant announced that Microsoft had officially licensed its JDBC driver for use with SQL Server. It's a big deal, worth a lot of money for Merant, so congratulations there. However, looking at this from another angle, I can't help wondering what Microsoft is doing spending money on Java. Merant tells me that one of Microsoft's corporate clients asked Microsoft to provide Java support for its SQL Server database. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall in that conversation when Microsoft attempted to convince the mystery client to go against using Java and move to .NET. They must have been a fairly influential client to convince Microsoft to go against all its principles and officially support a language that it's desperately trying to kill off. More power to them, I say.

On that note I must bid farewell, but before I go, I want to tell you of a great discussion group that has survived the death of a column. Straight Talking is alive and well in the world of Yahoo groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/straight_talking_java). It originated in JDJ, but it now has a life of its own. If you're up for some interesting and varied debate, check it out.

Catch you next month, and watch out for those <...> brackets!

More Stories By Alan Williamson

Alan Williamson is widely recognized as an early expert on Cloud Computing, he is Co-Founder of aw2.0 Ltd, a software company specializing in deploying software solutions within Cloud networks. Alan is a Sun Java Champion and creator of OpenBlueDragon (an open source Java CFML runtime engine). With many books, articles and speaking engagements under his belt, Alan likes to talk passionately about what can be done TODAY and not get caught up in the marketing hype of TOMORROW. Follow his blog, http://alan.blog-city.com/ or e-mail him at cloud(at)alanwilliamson.org.

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