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Web services creators needed

New training tracks are popping up everywhere.

If you want to be one of the architects or builders of world-class Web sites, now is the time to set your sights on Web services. These modular, Web-based applications are growing in popularity, and the people who can create them will find plenty of opportunity over the next few years.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Web site Web Services Architect, many companies are already hard at work turning out these building blocks for Web sites. Sixty percent of the 775 respondents said they are either already working on a project or are about to start one within three months.

The same survey asked respondents about their job roles, and the responses are a good indication of the range of job titles of people involved in Web services. Almost 40 percent of the respondents reported their job title as System Analyst or System Architect. Developers accounted for almost 24 percent of the group with various management and executive titles making up the balance.

These job titles should come as no surprise since many people with these titles end up taking on Web site development responsibilities. That’s good news for any C#, Java, or Visual Basic programmer who would like to take on new responsibilities and perhaps do more than write code.

Learning more about creating Web services also makes perfect sense for people who want to become Web site designers. Even if they don’t end up getting their hands deep into the program development, they will benefit career-wise from knowing how it’s done on some level. Anything that helps set them apart from the crowd is always helpful, but a working knowledge of Web services should be extra appealing to potential employers and clients.

The demand for Web services architects will also grow as Web sites become more complex. Web sites such as portals require the sophisticated capabilities that Web services can deliver and companies are rapidly turning to portals to satisfy their internal and external communication needs. Tech research company IDC released figures in June that predict a portal market valued at more than $3 billion by 2006.

The technology in Web services is rapidly evolving, so there are no vendor-neutral certifications available for it yet. Microsoft has created .NET versions of two of its existing certification programs: the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) and the Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD). To earn them you have to pass several .NET-specific exams in addition to the exams for the non-.NET certifications.

Microsoft is offering a lot of .NET training courses of either the Visual Basic or the C# variety. If you visit the company’s Web site and search for training courses related to .NET, you will find more than a dozen classes, all available with live instructors in classroom settings. For example, there is a five-day course that is an introduction to C# Programming with Microsoft .NET and a three-day course that teaches students how to build mobile Web applications for wireless devices.

With any of these courses (Microsoft’s and others) you’ll be able to get up to speed quickly if you have the right training and experience to serve as a foundation. You need to be competent and comfortable in programming in Java, Visual Basic, or C#–or all three. If you have an MCSD or MCAD, you’ll be a little ahead of the game, but Microsoft hasn’t made it clear if (and how) people with these certifications will be given a quick upgrade path to the .NET ones.

You can be certain that other computer and software companies will be working hard to somehow integrate Web services into their training and certification programs. Oracle, for example, has already announced it will refocus the Java programmer certification on Web Services.

Sun Microsystems is near the top of the Web services heap, as is Microsoft. Depending upon whose market research you happen to be reading, one of the two is placed at the top. Without a doubt, though, both companies are major contenders and companies you need to know about if you’re interested in Web services.

Sun has a whole host of developer’s toolkits for Web services and training to go along with each kit. Forte for Java is one such product and comes with wizards to help you speed up the creation of Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) applications. You could also use the new Java Web Services Developer Pack. You can download it for free from Sun.

To train for Web services development with Java, your best bet is to become a J2EE certified developer before you attempt to move into Web services programming.

If you want a Sun certification to help demonstrate your Java-based Web services development skills, the Sun Certified Web Component Developer for the J2EE Platform (SCWCD) Exam will help you get there. It is for Java Certified Developers who want to prove that they have what it takes to brew up potent Web services. Once you pass the exam, you’re a Certified Web Component Developer.

Sun has a comprehensive, nationwide educational program for its products, so you’ll be able to find classroom, online, and printed resources to help you get trained. For more details on these products, visit the company’s Web site.

Microsoft and Sun are not the only companies working hard for Web services; IBM has a Web services toolkit called alphaWorks. Borland Software is working on Delphia 7 Studio, a .NET toolkit that should be available before the end of the year. Plumtree Software, Covasoft, and BEA Systems all develop Web services. You can visit the booths of many of these companies at the Web Services Edge Conference and Expo.

I’ve mentioned training courses for several companies deeply involved in Web services, and I’ve mentioned some other companies with Web services products. That’s great if you want to learn about products, but if you’re looking for something more generic, you won’t be wasting your time if you spend it learning about the Web services standards. There are several of them and probably will be for some time to come; they include XML, SOAP, UDDI, and WSDL.

If you are not familiar with these standards, here are a few Web sites to help get your research started: XML.com is an XML primer with a fairly recent, but thorough and understandable explanation of Web services. Microsoft has put together an XML Web Services Development Center that is not .NET-centric (at least not so much that it’s a problem). To get the official word on Web services standards, visit the Web Services Activity site. You can get detailed beginner and advanced programmer information at this site. These are just a few of the sites you can find with a quick search.

While everyone involved in Web site development and maintenance might not want to become deeply involved in Web services, they do need to know about it. A course or a book might do the trick for some people, but others (such as systems analysts and Web site developers) will benefit from a deeper understanding. The Web is evolving rapidly and to keep up those who are helping it do so must also evolve rapidly.

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