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There has been a long running debate in the Application Platform Services Group here at Burton Group between the REST people on one side and the SOAP people on the other. For the most part it mirrors the external debate. In one recent exchange, while discussing the complexity of SOAP and the web services framework, the SOAP side said, "Before all of the WS-* stuff, SOAP was actually simple. That's what the 'S' stood for."

And now a history lesson. It's the year 2000, a harried developer has a problem

Developer: So, my boss was playing golf this weekend, and now I have to-quote, unquote-SOAP-enable the enterprise, but I don't know what SOAP is. Can you help, SOAP Guy?

SOAP Guy: Sure thing. First, SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol.

Dev: So it's simple?

SG: Simple as Sunday, my friend.

Dev: Okay, lay it on me.

SG: Well, just like it says in the name, SOAP is used for accessing remote objects.

Dev: Like CORBA?

SG: Exactly like CORBA, only simpler. Instead of some complex transport protocol that no one will let traverse a firewall, we use HTTP. And instead of some binary message format we use XML.

Dev: I'm intrigued. Show me how it works.

SG: Sure thing. First there's the SOAP envelope. It's pretty simple. It's just an XML document consisting of a header and a body. And in the body you make your RPC call.

Dev: So this is all about RPCs?

SG: Absolutely. As I was saying, you make your RPC call by putting the method name and its arguments in the body. The method name is the outermost element and each sub-element is a parameter. And all the parameters can be typed as specified right here in Section 5 of the specification.



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