There are more and more people that starting to ask questions about SOAP. That’s why I decided to devote a post to this subject.
Just when you thought that this blog couldn’t reach a deeper depth, he starts talking about foamy soap…

Before you close this window, take not that I’m, ofcourse, not talking about the smells-like-artificial-flowers product but about the protocol. Simple Object Access Protocol.
This is used for communication between different types of components. Rather vague, I know, but hang in there, you’ll get it in a second.

Very typical for SOAP is that is uses Extensible Markup Language messages to communicate. What the..*foooeeeepp*?
This basically means it sends messages in the form of XML documents.

The SOAP defines the messaging framework, this consists out of following parts. The processing model which defines the rules for processing a SOAP message. The extensibility model which defines the very concepts of the SOAP features and modules.
The underlying protocol binding framework which will describe the rules for defining a binding to an underlying protocol. This can be used for exchanging SOAP messages between nodes.
And last but not least, we have the message structure. Defining how a message should look like.

This sounds all very technical but it doesn’t say what you can actually do with this protocol?

The main function of the SOAP is to allow different types of applications and systems to communicate with each other. In a default set up this is not always easy. For example, a larger company may have all different types of operating systems, software, versions, etc.
It is the SOAP that allows you to exchange data between all of these types of technology, doesn’t matter what these applications use. They will understand each other.

A typical use for SOAP is creating a webservice. This is a type of interface which allows other applications to trigger an event. Like for example request data or starting a task on a certain server. Ever wondered how it is possible that travel agents book your vacation with their custom build application? Webservices, indeed. To put in a simple (and not entirely correct) way, they plug their computer in to the servers of the tour operator.

The easiest way to see SOAP is, like you have the rosetta stone of the IT world. Theorecially it is possible to understand and communicate every application out there. Which is, in my humble opinion, very cool. But that is probably the nerd in me talking.


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