What is a service?
A service is an implementation of a clearly defined business function that operates independent of the state of any other service. It has a well defined set of platform-independent interfaces and operates through a pre-defined contract with the consumer of the service. Services are loosely coupled – a service need not know the technical details of another service in order to work with it – all interaction takes place through the interfaces.
Data between the consumer and the service are passed in XML format over a variety of protocols. The main protocols that web services use today are SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and REST (Representational State Transfer). While REST uses the existing internet infrastructure (HTTP), SOAP is independent of the network layer and can use a variety of network protocols like HTTP, SMTP and the like.
Benefits of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA):
1. Platform Independence – Since web services can be published and consumed across development and operating platforms, an enterprise can leverage its existing legacy applications that reside on different types of servers and build additional functionality without having to rebuild the entire thing. It also helps an enterprise to integrate its applications with those of its partners.
2. Focused Developer Roles – Since a service is a discrete implementation independent of other services, developers in charge of a service can focus completely on implementing and maintaining that services without having to worry about other services as long as the pre-defined contract is honored.
3. Location Transparency – Web services are often published to a directory where consumers can look them up. The advantage of this approach is that the web service can change its location at any time. Consumers of the service will be able to locate the service through the directory.
4. Code Reuse – Since SOA breaks down an application into small independent pieces of functionality, the services can be reused in multiple applications, thereby bringing down the cost of development.
5. Greater Testability – Small, independent services are easier to test and debug than monolithic applications. This leads to more reliable software.
6. Parallel Development – Since the services are independent of each other and contracts between services are pre-defined, the services can be developed in parallel – this shortens the software development life cycle considerably.
7. Better scalability – Since the location of a service does not matter anymore, the service can be transparently moved to a more powerful server to service more consumers if required. Also, there can be multiple instances of the service running on different servers. This increases scalability.
8. Higher availability – Since the location of a service does not matter and you can have multiple instances of a service, it is possible to ensure high availability.
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