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Web services provide a standard way to implement a business function that can be invoked remotely. They support interoperability by separating the mechanisms of access from the implementation. For this reason, Web services are the de facto standard for implementing an SOA that requires a loose coupling between a requester and a provider. The development tools industry quickly jumped onto the Web services bandwagon and provided mechanisms for developing Web services. These mechanisms can now be formalized into a set of development patterns for Web services. Each of these patterns has advantages and disadvantages that determine which pattern should be used in a given situation.

This article assumes that you have a general familiarity with Web services concepts and standards. The implementation platform used in this article is Java™, and the article also assumes familiarity with Web services and JAX-RPC, which are a pair of specifications from the Java Community Process. JAX-RPC defines the deploy-time and run-time requirements for a deployable, executable Web service in the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) platform. Examples of these artifacts include the Web Services Definition Language (WSDL) document and the webservices.xml file that assists deployment. While less complex, JAX-RPC also defines a set of artifacts on the requester side, including a webservicesclient.xml file for defining client-side behavior. Although the article focuses on the Java platform, the patterns described in the article apply equally to any platform that supports Web Services development, such as .NET.

One of the major tenets of an SOA is publish, find, and bind. This tenet recognizes that the key to any Web services development is the WSDL document that defines the interface and binding of the corresponding Web service implementations. The WSDL document defines the contract between the Web service requester and provider such that the implementation details (and even implementation platform) of each can be different and can change without any impact on the others.

A WSDL document has several aspects relevant to this discussion. The most relevant are the types and the portType elements. The types element defines the XML schema for the data types used in the interface; these types may be explicitly defined in the WSDL and/or imported from other XML schema files. The portType element identifies the set of operations offered by the Web service, via a set of operation elements. Each operation element in turn references (indirectly through message elements) the data types defined in the types element for use as input and output parameters.

Since a WSDL document is so important, the development patterns described in this article center around how WSDL documents are created and manipulated. Once a WSDL document is created, you can use Web service development tools to help you generate the necessary deploy-time and run-time artifacts defined by JAX-RPC. Keep in mind that the WSDL document is the key to Web services development — this article considers WSDL the top level of development because it is a meta-language that describes an interface in abstract, implementation-independent terms. Code is considered the bottom level of development because it can be mostly generated, deployed and executed. Given this terminology, this article identifies and describes three development patterns:

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