Why Should I Care About The Wire Format In SOAP?

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SoapIn this post, Tim Ewald talks about using Doc/Literal/Bare for your web service. There are several benefits he ticks off, but one seems to be the aesthetic effect of cleaning up the format of the XML within your SOAP message. In SOAP, the XML sent back and forth is just the wire format. As a typical developer, why should you care what the wire format is? In general, you shouldn’t. If you have the tools to generate WSDL and generate a proxy off of a WSDL to call a web service, you’re all set.

Unfortunately for me, it’s not that easy. My job right now is to expose my company’s platform to clients running cell-phones, set-top boxes, etc… These platforms are running J2ME, BREW, C, etc… Potential future clients are interested in SOAP, but our first client is dead set against it because they say it’s too verbose for their tiny devices and there is scant tool support for them.

So I went and took some sand-paper to our SOAP services and shaved off every bit I could, smoothing out the edges, shortening the namespaces I have control over, making everything so “Doc/Literal/Bare” you’d blush just looking at it. Still, no go. They weren’t having it. They have their own proprietary XML format they want to send to us over HTTP with a roll-our-own authentication scheme. I was hoping to take advantage of all the plumbing VS.NET and the .NET Web Services provide.

I recently watched a video in which Don Box and Doug Purdy discuss Indigo and SOA. They hope that most developers will not have to become plumbers and understand how it all works under the hood. You just use Indigo and it automagically takes care of it for you. You just focus on your business rules.

The problem I see arising is that as Microsoft takes web services and SOA to the next level, not everybody is keeping up. How will I get these people on mobile devices to interoperate with my service if they are lacking the tools to even generate simple SOAP messages? These guys didn’t want to use XML until I showed them their format required very little change to make it XML compliant. As much as I don’t want to know what’s going on under the hood, I’m afraid I am forced to hike my pants down a bit and expose some butt crack to become a plumber.

In my next post, I’ll talk about my solution to this problem and a problem I ran into.