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Small service is true service while it lasts: integrating web services into IT education
describes a third-year
web development course
that heavily integrated
a wide variety of
web services into the
In the first few years of this decade,
there was a great deal of
h d l f
service-oriented computing (SOC)
“SOC will create a nirvana,
in which discrete channels “SOC is the next evolutionary
of business logic become step in software”
parts that can be strung
together into business
processes with almost no
Functional Functional Functional
Capability Capability Capability
network Functional Capability
Web services are
simply one approach
one software application
connect and communicate
another software application
Web services provide a
publishing and consuming services
that makes use of the
HTTP protocol along with XML
In the first iteration
of web services fever,
the attention was on a
series of related XML
the WS-protocol stack
While SOAP and WSDL are
complex XML schemas,
this now relatively mature standard
i well-supported in both
t d i b th
.NET and Java environments.
Yet, despite the superb tool support
in these two en ironments
by the middle years of the 2000s,
the enthusiasm for web services had certainly cooled
It had become an important technique
for some development niches
but hardly the seismic shift
predicted at the close of the 1990s
But by decade s end
the enthusiasm for web
services was back,
thanks to the
h k h
REST services are
significantly easier to
However, manual XML parsing and
processing is required in order to
deserialize a REST response back
into a usable object.
Nonetheless, the simpler REST
approach seems to have won the
war for web services.
The prevalence of RESTful services
has given rise to a new style of
web development: the mashup.
In our IT degree web
development has a key place
one optional course.
Consumption of REST services was a
k part of the 2009 iteration of
t f th it ti f
our sixth-semester Web 2 course,
which on the technology side mainly
hi h th t h l id i l
focused on ASP.NET development.
The students were given a SQL Server
Express music d t b
E i database that was created by the
author by transforming open-source XML-based data from
the MusicMoz web site.
The students had to create seven
ASP.NET reports/pages of
progressively higher complexity.
The students had to expand their first
assignment by creating a “real” music
portal site that used the same
database data but mashed in content
from three to six different REST
Some of the REST services used by
the students included:
pictures of the artist from flickr
additional artist info from yahoo, mtv, and lastfm
similar artists f
i il ti t from yahoo, mtv, l tf
h t lastfm
videos by the artist from yahoo, youtube, and mtv
upcoming concerts from yahoo, upcoming.org, and 5gig
track lyrics from freebase, lyricsfly, and lyricswiki
Other possibilities suggested to the
play and purchase track from iLike, rhapsody, or
purchasing album from Amazon
reviews of album from Amazon or yelp
books about this artist from Amazon
upcoming concerts f
i from B d i
Bandsintown, gruvr, livenation,
Added security, user roles, and a
session-based favorites list to their
second assignment solution.
“creating a mashup i a manual manner is a
“ i h in l i
very time-consuming task”
… a perception the
students in this course
would no doubt warmly
By semester’s end,
many students had created
ith RESTf l
That is, where do you find a
service to do job X or
provide data Y?
Students had to use open-ended web
searching or third-party website API
directories (such as programmableweb.com)
to find an API with the appropriate data
“Compared to data, services
can present a broader form of
Every single REST service has a totally different
XML schema that has to be parsed and reconciled.
This meant that the students had to work with some
four to six d ff
f different XML schemas
It forced the students to deal with a real
design issue: namely, how to effectively reduce
code duplication in the face of processing
many similar, but different, data sets.
A “key difficulty in creating
mashups is data mediation
between the services to be
mashed up ”
That is, it can be quite challenging to harmonize
the data between different services.
As a consequence of data heterogeneity, the
students were forced to programmatically
mediate between th services.
di t b t the i
Precisely because of these three
issues – this type of development
experience is crucial for the
experience of IT undergraduates.
In the IT2008 Curriculum Guidelines,
describes the five key activities
of the profession as the
“selection, creation, application,
integration, and administration of
p g g
Th “ bili to effectively i
ff i l integrate
IT-based solutions into the user
environment” is listed as a key
outcome for IT education.
As such, “the integration of
different technologies and the
integration of technologies into
organizations are fundamental to
RESTful web services
into web applications
provide an excellent way
to practically integrate “integration”
into the IT curriculum
Dept. Computer Science & Information Systems
Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada
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