I, and I suspect most GP consultants, have had a slightly fuzzy idea what a web service is. To help clear this up I went straight to Wikipedia and got this definition:

“a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network. It has an interface described in a machine-processable format (specifically WSDL). Other systems interact with the Web service in a manner prescribed by its description using SOAP-messages, typically conveyed using HTTP with an XML serialization in conjunction with other Web-related standards.”
I have interpreted this to mean “a piece of code, called remotely over the Internet, that does stuff”. I do not pretend any of this information to be technically sound but I do think it will help GP consultants to understand Web Services and in particular how to work with the SmartConnect Web service.
So a couple of points to make:
1. You do not need a LAN, VPN, CITRIX or Terminal Serve to execute a shared web service
2. You do need an Internet connection
3. You normally call a web service from some ‘code’ – unless you have SC do it for you
4. Web Services can do just about anything – they could execute some other code, could return data etc.
So our challenge was to open up GP by including Web Service technology within SmartConnect. Of course eOne wanted to make these services available to consultants and not just tools in the domain of developers. We have used Web services in a number of ways within SmartConnect:
1. Allow remote entry of data via Excel. You can be anywhere and hit send on an Excel sheet which will connect to the SC web service and push data into GP.
2. You can have your developers call the SC web service from their own code, to execute a map.
3. We use the CRM web services to write data to CRM tables. SmartConnect does not ever write data direct to tables in CRM but we pass data to the web service.
4. Connecting with CRM online. I had a consultant this week say ‘Wow, how did that SC map just execute and instantly update a CRM system hosted inside Microsoft, in Redmond’ – it was by calling a CRM web service.
5. Pulling data out of CRM is also done through the CRM web service. We ask the web service for data, and it sends it back to SmartConnect.
This leads to the question of whether SC works with the Web services that have been built for GP? The answer is that for the moment we have not connected to these web services, but instead are using eConnect. The main reason for this is that there is broader functionality within eConnect and by having a single SC web service we do not need to confuse you with multiple web services.
So to all the consultants out there, it is time to amaze your clients with the world of web services. The traditional boundaries of networks can be put aside and the world has become a much smaller place.