For the end users, specific web forms have been created to consult the platform. Similarly, specific web services have been developed for Business-to-Business communication between the platform and the participant's and/or supplier's software (e-Catalogue, e-Orders, e-Order confirmations, e-Invoices, data communication).
One of the most important requirements for these web services consists in the possibility to exchange data in a standard format that every software platform understands.
In order to meet the demand for such a common interface, the BIP platform has been equipped with XML (Extensible Mark-up Language) web services.
XML is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) specification used to exchange structured data in web applications. With an XML document, you can save data in a similar way as you would do with a database. However, an XML document, as opposed to databases, saves data in the form of unprocessed text. This text is understood by any other application.
Web services communicate with the help of messages. A request message contains information about the processing that must be carried out, together with the data needed for that purpose. A response message contains information on the results of the processing.
This communication through messages is an exceptionally effective way to make the exchange of data totally independent of the underlying architecture and business logic. In IT jargon, these are referred to as ‘loosely coupled services’.
BIPP has also opted for an open standard format in the area of communication-oriented messages for web services: the SOAP protocol (Simple Object Access Protocol). Because SOAP is based on XML, the messages can be understood by and sent to any system that implements general Internet communication services.
These choices haven given the BIP platform the foundation for a truly distributed application. The specific architecture, which offers possibilities to exchange data between ‘loosely coupled services’, is called an SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture).
Service-Oriented Architecture is modular and flexible. By uncoupling the services, it is a lot simpler to add or remove services. Changing the operating logic becomes easier as well. This is present in the various applications, but is no longer inherently present in the implementation of the services.
Both the sender and the receiver of a web service message must have access to the description (e.g. a WSDL file) of the web service. The sender needs this description in order to send the message in the correct format, while the receiver needs it to be able to correctly receive and process the message.
For a made-to-measure interaction using web services, this description is drawn up in close cooperation between the two parties.