Google, Amazon and Beyond

by Alexander Nakhimovsky

Google, Amazon, and Beyond: Creating and Consuming Web Services

As titles go “Google, Amazon, and Beyond” sounds to me like Buzz Lightyear’s latest slogan, but it’s actually quite a good book about writing software to consume and provide web services.

The first two chapters are introductory material, though the authors quickly introduce some code with JavaScript routines to talk to both Google and Amazon. The second of them does a good job explaining the intricacies of DOM and how you use it to build a web page in Java. Then the authors get down to some serious work at using Java, including stand-alone applications and applets, to access web services.

They move fast throughout the book; this is not one to read quickly or without ready access to a computer. That said, the writing is good; the text is understandable and all the code is well explained.

The book covers a wide gamut of techniques and technologies, including SOAP and REST on the query side, and XSLT and XPath on the output side.

Then the book moves on to instructions for offering your own services. This part of the book starts off with WebDAV using Tomcat, though there is a short digression into Java Server Pages before really getting down to the nitty gritty. Finally the book shows how to use WSDL and Axis to easily create full web applications.

You can see that this volume covers a lot of territory. This breadth may well be the book’s largest flaw; its wide reach means no topic gets a really deep coverage and a number of topics do not get the coverage they deserve. Indeed I would have to say that only a much better Java programmer than I would get full value from this volume — there were parts where the authors lost me entirely and it took an effort to get back my understanding, occasionally resorting to a Java manual.

The publishers have a page for the book that has an example chapter, table of contents, index and source code. The example chapter, 4, details how to build a SOAP server using Java and provides an excellent example for the book. If you’re a little unsure of your Java skills, take a look at this chapter and see if you can easily understand the code and explanation. If you can, then this volume should have no surprises for you.

It should be said that nothing about the book’s cover tells you how much of it relies on Java, though a good read of the table of contents makes it obvious. I would have personally preferred a book that was more general in the programming language it used, covering more of the tactics and methods rather than examining specific code. If, on the other hand, you are an experienced Java programmer looking for a book on programming web services in that language, then this is an excellent volume.

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