[Kc] Book Review: Programming Web Services with Perl

Garrett Goebel garrett at scriptpro.com
Mon Mar 24 09:32:56 CST 2003

Programming Web Services with Perl
Randy J. Ray & Pavel Kulchenko

Programming Web Services with Perl is principally a book on implementing
solutions using XML-RPC and SOAP in Perl. It also covers complementary and
alternative standards such as WSDL, UDDI, and REST in some detail. And on
the periphery, it finishes with a whirlwind tour of developing message
routing, alternative data encoding within XML, security, transactions,
workflow, internationalization, service discovery, extension, and management
techniques and specifications.

The book assumes the reader will have the knowledge of an intermediate level
Perl programmer. I.e., the reader is assumed to have a working knowledge of
references, data structures, and object-oriented Perl. On the other hand no
previous knowledge of XML, XML-RPC, SOAP or XML related technologies is

It should also be mentioned that both of the authors Randy J. Ray and Pavel
Kulchenko are also the principle developers of the most popular XML-RPC and
SOAP Perl modules: XML::RPC and SOAP::Lite respectively. That said, the book
is not a soap box for the authors to tout the merits of their tools.

Rather, it is a practical book which starts with grounding fundamentals.
Readers should walk away with a core understanding of XML-RPC and SOAP and
not just a particular tool set for working with them. The authors examine
the alternative XML-RPC and SOAP tools, illustrate how they are used, and
give practical and even handed reasons why their modules should be
preferred. Which comes down to issues of features, active development,
support, and the amount of work required to code to a particular interface.
They then settle down to a comfortable and thorough guide to XML::RPC and

The topics and issues are illustrated throughout using real world web
services. For example creating an XML-RPC client for O'Reilly's Meerkat news
wire, or a SOAP client to covert use.perl.org's journal stream to RSS. Code
is presented to the reader filtered down to highlight each particular issue
as it is discussed. This is nice in that it avoids listing slight variations
of the same code multiple times, but on the down side it can also leave the
reader flipping back and forth to reassemble an example in their head. Full
code for each example is provided in the appendices. And all of the example
code may be downloaded from O'Reilly at

All-in-all, the book is a thorough practical introduction to working with
XML-RPC, SOAP and related technologies. When I started reading the book, I
was a bit disappointed to see that it only covered XML-RPC and SOAP related
services. When I finished, I was impressed with how very much information
they'd managed to pack into so few pages.

And yet, I was left wishing there'd been a more through coverage of
interoperability issues between other SOAP implementations and things like
custom de-serializers. To be honest interoperability and de-serialization
are mentioned, and the authors do an excellent job of referring the reader
on to sources for continued reading on most other topics.

The book does an admirable job balancing content, length, and information
density. Not to mention an excellent job delivering the information that
will still be relevant years and not just weeks from the date published.
Most of the topics I'd wished to see covered in more depth are those that
are still developing and consequently most likely to become quickly dated.
In short a well balanced practical guide to applying XML-RPC and SOAP to
solve problems.

Garrett Goebel 
IS Development Specialist 
ScriptPro                  Direct: 913.403.5261 
5828 Reeds Road            Main:   913.384.1008 
Mission, KS 66202          Fax:    913.384.2180 
www.scriptpro.com          garrett at scriptpro dot com 
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