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Book review: Darwinia
Reviewed: Friday, August 11, 2006

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tinderbox

On the structured data web as an infrastructure for web services
Doug E. Dyer, 2004 , (Paper URL)
Sunday, October 10, 2004

Dyer first discusses web services as implemented via XML (tagging), SOAP (transfer), WSDL (description) and UDDI (discovery). He has no issues with XML, WSDL or UDDI but finds SOAP overly complex (though he mentions that recent changes may obviate some of his complaints). It would make more sense, he argues, to use relational database management systems (RDBMSs) instead of SOAP as a transport protocol. For one thing, SOAP rides on top of HTTP which raises security concerns and requires dealing with a stateless protocol. RDBMSs, on the other hand, are designed with sessions in mind and make it easy to query, add, update and delete. Dyer's Structured Data Web (SDW) is based on "information elements" -- a variable name and its value and metadata in the its current "problem solving episode". These episode are defined by an application and problem instance (i.e., an integer).

The SDW trades space for time and uses a un-normalized schema. There are 3 main tables: one to hold the attributes of information elements, one to hold a complete history of events for each element (no deletes are made on this table) and one for describing applications and their variables by user. To use the SDW for RPC, both clients and servers can include information elements in their messages. Sentinels and other services can be built on top of this base. The SDW is therefore about semantically rich communication; transport can still use SOAP but these SOAP packets will be significantly simpler because the SDW takes care of all of the versioning and namespace issues.


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