Thoughts on the World

Challenges of Web Service Development

In a recent article, Gregor Hohpe asks "Is SOA Like Drunk Driving?" In our attempts to address the shortcomings of component-based development have we "swung too far" and introduced new problems? One recent experience suggests to me that we may well be at risk of this.

I was recently asked to look at possible development of an application which would use Microsoft SharePoint Services as its back end. Now call me old-fashioned, but I'd like to be able to do this using the tools I know and trust (in this case Microsoft Visual Studio), on my own PC. There are good reasons - it's an environment I can control without troubling the corporate server police, and I've got used to MS development tools with "Intellisense", helping me to navigate complex object models and providing continuous design-time type checking and so on.

According to the "SDK" (just a help file, really) SharePoint has an object interface, so with my preferences this was an obvious starting point. But it becomes rapidly apparent that the object model is only designed for use on the server. There's no recognised "client install", and some of the documentation suggests that it won't work even if I can get the right components onto the client. I wrote to Microsoft, who replied that their recommended approach is to install Visual Studio on the server and develop directly on it. The corporate server police are really going to go for that. Sure!

On the basis that I don't take "no" for an answer I'm part-way through a set of experiments based on snaffling various DLLs and XML files from the server onto my PC, but so far it's not working. I'll update this article if I eventually succeed, but it doesn't look hopeful.

Which that leaves the Web Service interfaces. Each SharePoint library exports a set of SOAP interfaces, allowing you to navigate the structure and perform basic document operations. It wasn't difficult to set up a "web reference" to the target area on the test server, and invoke web services to get a list of lists, and then a list of documents in a chosen list. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy this was in Visual Studio, even though I was using VB.NET and all the examples were in C#. 

And that's where the fun begins. Because the web services return a lump of XML. No schema. No objects you can "rehydrate" from it. As far as I can establish, no formal definition of structure - the SDK merely publishes a few examples, with no indication of which elements are optional or repeatable, for example. So I'm reduced to copying the lump of XML into an editor, rummaging through it to infer the structure, and hard-coding XML parsing logic to get the information I want. No early binding, no Intellisense, no protection against errors. Wonderful!

How have Microsoft, who have always served developers so well in the past, got it so abysmally wrong? This was my first experience of trying to develop against "somebody else's" Web Service, and I'm very disappointed. Maybe Gregor is right, and we need to stop the "services with everything" bandwagon veering too far.


If you'd like to comment on this article, with ideas, examples, or just to praise it to the skies then I'd love to hear from you.

Comment on this article

Please share: All Addthis servicesTweet thisFacebook thisLink thisYam thisShare on Google

© Questa Computing Ltd. 2005
Page last updated 14 May, 2015 13:37

Questa Computing Ltd. is registered in England and Wales number:2889117.
Registered office: Ember House, 35-37 Creek Road, East Molesey, KT8 9BE UK
For credits, copyright details and cookie policy, see here.

Search my Sites:

Share this page:

Share |


Favourite/Major Articles
All Articles by Category
All Articles by Title
Review Index

Site Map:

Welcome / Home Page
Contact Me
Search the Site
Thoughts on the World
Consultancy Services
An introduction
Key Skills
Career Summary
Case Studies
IT Knowledge/Education
Customer Profiles
Training Courses
Previous Experience
Download Full CV
National Grid Group Plc
British Energy Power and Energy Trading
Legal Marketing Services Ltd.
Marks and Spencer Plc
Faith Footwear Ltd.
Barclays Sales Financing Ltd.
Oracle Corporation UK Ltd.
Livingston Rental Group Ltd.
National Power Plc.
Agile Development
Coding Projects & Thoughts
General Thoughts
Products and Projects
Reviews: Books, Music & Films
Website Announcements
Full Index
Publications and Papers
A Hacker's Guide to Project Management
Conference Papers
Agile Architecture
Practical Enterprise Integration
Modelling an Enterprise Data Architecture
Strategies for Flexibility
Getting Sizing Right
Muzzling the Alligators
Evolution of a Test Method
Photography Articles & Discussion
Photo Gallery
Projects and Products
RelQuest - Reliability Modelling Tool
ConQuest - Container Yard Management System
Full Index
Biography and Personal Endeavour
Construction & Civil Engineering
Human-Computer Interaction
Mathematics & Statistics
Military & 20th Century History
Modelling & Analysis
Photography & Photographers
Physics & Cosmology
Project & People Management
Psychology & Human Behaviour
Science, General

Contact Me

Email me

Feeds and Tweets

Follow me on Twitter


Thoughts on the World
(main feed)

Feedburner XML
RSS Version XML (direct)

How many subscribers?

Other Feeds

Professional Blog
Photo Blog
Photo Album
Review Pages

About my feeds

Google Blog Search

References to
References to

Sister Sites: