Do web services bring simplicity or complexity? CIO Insight chatted briefly with Barry Bloom, Chief Software Architect for cosmetics company Mary Kay Inc., about his web services projects, designed to support Mary Kay's 950,000 door-to-door salespeople in the field.
CIOI: Are you worried that Web services will be tough to create?
BLOOM: I fear that the opposite is actually going to happen, there will be too many Web services. The Web service protocol, SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol], is very verbose. We tend to do very simple, in-and-out transactions with our Web services. A credit-card transaction is a good example. The application asks one question, and gets one answer. We're not trying to do a whole bunch of processes where I've got, say, 50 items, and I'm going to make 50 Web services calls over the network or over the Internet, or something crazy like that. That's not ever going to be efficient, at least not with today's technology. In my mind, it's the one-shot, easy things that are best for Web services.
What's another example of a simple Web service?
We use Web services to generate IDs for our salespeople, our independent beauty consultants. That Web service is now company-wide. Anybody in the company can use it; all someone has to do is hook up and talk SOAP to it, whether they're on a legacy VMS system, or on another Solaris system, or even on an NT system. So long as they can send data over the Net, and they can read XML [Extensible Markup Language], then we can talk. That makes it very simple compared to other distributed technologies out there.
What would you say is the greatest value of these types of services?
We've experienced a tenfold increase in the company's ability to take orders, and have reduced server counts. I think once you deploy a Web service, once it does its job, and that's what it does, there's not going to be a whole lot of persuasive technology arguments for changing that any time soon.