by B. Victor Chakravarty, Enterprise Systems Architect
One hundred and fifteen IT professionals from across the State participated in the fifth semi-annual Developers' Conference on June 18, from 8:30 to noon, at the Central Maine Commerce Center Florian Room. The featured theme was Web Services, and it included three presentations from early adopters of Web Services within the State.
The first presentation was on InforME Web Services by Todd Tolhurst, the director of IT development at InforME. Todd laid down a solid theoretical foundation for the entire conference, covering such essentials as the definition of Web Services and what makes them so useful. Todd also covered the three basic protocols: SOAP, REST, and JSON-RPC, their individual plusses and minuses, along with lots of example code from real-life InforME services. Todd took great care to present actually working code, but at the same time, he presented only the least amount of code that was necessary to reinforce the newly-introduced concepts. All in all, this presentation achieved a sterling feat, viz., to provide a comprehensive summary of the current state-of-the-art in about forty minutes.
The second presentation was on N-tier Architecture using Web Services by Doug Birgfeld, the IT Project Manager of the Maine Judicial Branch. Doug's presentation was about how Web Services could be utilized to create a flexible, scalable, service-oriented architecture across a large enterprise. It covered such critical issues as layering and federation among application components, policy-based authentication and authorization, simulation of statefulness, ownership and synchronization of updates across a distributed environment, etc. It highlighted real-life details of data and process flows among the various parts of the Criminal Justice apparatus in Maine . The audience obtained a thorough overview of the power and flexibility of Web Services, and at the same time, got to know some of the technical details that are necessary to properly implement such services.
The third presentation was on the use of Web Services at the Department of Transportation (DOT), by Tom Lynch, the IT Project Manager, and Jason Sardano, a Senior Programmer-Analyst, of the Office of Information Technology at DOT. First, it showcased three specific applications currently deployed at DOT that utilize Web Services: the fleet warehouse manager, the PDA-based field data acquirer, and a multi-state maintenance activity tracker. Later, Tom and Jason elaborated on how Web Services were being utilized at DOT to break down the business unit silos via reusable components and shared data. More specifically, they showcased the DOT spatial framework that leveraged Web Services to create mapping interfaces for DOT business applications. Examples included code snippets embracing a wide spectrum: SOAP and REST, Java and .NET, browser client and Windows client, etc. Finally, Tom and Jason included a practical, bottomline comparison between SOAP and REST (no mean feat given the intense passion this topic ignites among developers), and tips on how to expose the same class library via both SOAP and REST.
As in the past, DevCon V concluded with a one-hour Open Mic session, where the State IT developer community shared their thoughts and opinions in random, free-wheeling exchanges. Topics included wikis, fee structures for hosted services, SOAP versus REST versus JSON-RPC, version control of Web Services, cataloging and dynamic discovery of Web Services, and many others.
The DevCon is the premier opportunity to network and brainstorm among State IT developers. It adds tangible value in terms of facilitating new learning and fostering opportunities for collaboration, and DevCon V was no exception. All its presentation materials are posted on the DevCon V page (accessible only from the Intranet). We eagerly look forward to the next DevCon, to be held sometime in early winter.