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Describing a Web Service

To make a Web service useful, a service consumer who has discovered a set of useful services must be able to determine

  1. How to invoke the service.

    • What is the service interface; that is, what are its methods, method signatures, and return values?

    • Where is the service located?

    • What protocol does the service understand?

  2. Which service offers superior quality of service (QoS) when multiple services advertise similar functional capabilities.

    • Is one service more secure than the others?

    • Does a particular provider guarantee a faster response or a more scalable and available service?

    • What legal agreements need to be in place for collaborating business partners?

  3. In what order should related services and their operations be invoked?

    • How can services be combined to create a macro service (often referred to as service orchestration)?

Although these three forms of description provide complete information regarding a service, a consumer may not require all three every time the service is used. It is quite probable, for example, that a consumer invoking a standalone service is uninterested in how the service is to be orchestrated or combined with other services. Also, where only one provider exists for a service, the nonfunctional characteristics (response performance, scalability, etc.), although important, may serve no useful purpose.

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