"Web services are becoming more and more important as businesses increasingly embrace the business partnership model, since they can provide an extremely cost effective solution to many business challenges," said Nate Jackson, developer analyst at Tribridge, a Florida-based provider of business consulting services. "IT professionals are beginning to see these benefits and are incorporating them into their system architectures much more than we've seen in the past." In terms of getting grounded in Web services, Jackson noted that Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET contains topic-specific assistance as well as larger tutorials that help "jumpstart" a developer in creating Web services.
"I believe IT professionals definitely need to be aware of the fundamentals of Web services technology," said Federico Zoufaly, Executive VP at ArtinSoft, a software and services company in Bellevue, Wash., specializing in transforming older applications to new .NET and J2EE-based applications. "They should be well versed in standards, and they definitely should be following the development of Web services technology." However, since the general acceptance and update of Web services architectures will be regulated by associated security and performance standards and developments, it's important for IT professionals to make sure they balance their Web services experience and knowledge with other areas of specialization, Zoufaly said.
One way to increase your knowledge of Web services is to consider taking XML or Web services classes. There are Microsoft instructor-led courses to help get professionals up to speed on Web services, lasting between three and five days in length. A good way to prepare for such exams is by purchasing practice exams. These are offered by a number of companies, such as Transcender and Measure Up.
"Practice exams are one of the most important steps in preparing for a Web services exam because they will give you an indication of how close or how far you are to being ready for the real thing," said Michael Cardi, managing architect at Pinnacle Decision Systems, Inc., a Connecticut-based consulting and software development company. He suggests looking into classes like Microsoft's 70-310, Developing XML Web Services and Server Components with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and the Microsoft .NET Framework, or 70-320, Developing XML Web Services and Server Components with Microsoft Visual C# and the Microsoft .NET Framework, both of which go into the fundamentals of Web services within the Microsoft architecture.
Books can also be a good place to turn, both for learning about Web services and preparing for Web services exams. Consider purchasing a book specifically designed for the exam, such as MCAD/MCSD Self-Paced Training Kit: Developing XML Web Services and Server Components with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and Microsoft Visual C# .NET or Building XML Web Services for the Microsoft .NET Platform.
There are other ways to learn about Web services too. Jackson recommends the Internet as an indispensable tool for learning about Web services, especially by searching for Web services information on such sites as http://www.searchwebservices.com, http://msdn.microsoft.com, http://gotdotnet.com and http://groups.google.com, while Cardi makes sure his developers learning about Web services read technical journals and magazines, such as Microsoft's MSDN Magazine, which often has several articles about Web services in each issue. Back issues of the magazine can be accessed at http://msdn.microsoft.com/msdnmag/.
But keep in mind that getting certified should not be your primary goal. According to experts, you've got to make sure you're mixing certifications with actual design and development experience. "These days, someone who just has a certification does not stand a chance because there's such a glut of extremely qualified applicants with outrageous experience," said Jeffrey Cohen, President of ImageWorks, LLC, a Connecticut-base Web design firm.
Regardless of exactly when Web services become commonplace for all companies, the bottom line is that IT professionals should be beefing up their Web services knowledge now in order to stay ahead of the technology curve.