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Programming Web Services with Perl Randy Ray and Pavel Kulchenko
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
486 pages
£ 28.50
Published: 3rd January 2003
reviewed by Raza Rizvi
   in the June 2003 issue (pdf), (html)

This book covers that area of integration brought about by the increasing use of web servers as the visible front entrance of knowledge repositories. In order to build upon them, or indeed to steal from them, methods are needed to enable access to that information by other servers. Those methods use XML (Extensible Markup Language) over HTTP using SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol).

The introductory chapters provide a kickstart to XML and to XML-RPC, which is an offshoot from the early SOAP specifications, and is considered by many to be a less complex means to reaching the same goals as SOAP.

A short but example rich chapter on programming with XML-RPC is included to show practical examples, even though in at least one of the cases the authors do make a side reference to RSS as an alternative means to collect live `news' information from a target web site.

Now in the middle of the book we go into four chapters on SOAP, starting with an introduction that also serves to lead on to the chapters that deal with the transport mechanisms that are open to SOAP programmers - namely, HTTP, and non-HTTP (such as SMTP and the open instant messaging platform Jabber, although others are included). Programming SOAP concentrates on the two available PERL modules (the eponymously named soap and soap::lite)

The last third of the book covers related XML use within Web Services through WSDL (Web Service Definition Language) and the discovery of suitable services that make themselves available for use through UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration). There is also a chapter on REST, a practical design philosophy for web services that in some ways is counter to the approach taken by SOAP. Here the service is separated from the implementation and the end object is processed as desired by the author rather than the publisher.

You need to be a good Perl programmer in order to make best use of this text. Additionally although the authors go to great lengths to provide an introduction to XML, it certainly helps to have had a reasonable exposure to it before starting, if only so that you don't become bogged down in the middle chapters, since SOAP is basically a mechanism for using complex XML documents.

There are plenty of examples and code snippets given, both within the text and in the appendices, though as the authors expect you to be Perl literate, the comments focus on the XML rather than the Perl.

If this all spurs you to do greater things, one of the authors has also published a title called `Programming Web Services with Soap' (also from O'Reilly).

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