Web services are an evolving set of protocols and standards that let you easily build Web-based applications. These applications can use services or execute transactions on many different systems without being limited by OS, programming language, or other integration concerns. Consisting of loosely coupled Internet-centric technologies, Web services let companies implement the next generation of e-commerce and business-to-business (B2B) systems.

Web services let you link business transactions (e.g., materials requirements, Purchase Orders—POs) between business partners much more easily than do earlier, more cumbersome technologies such as EDI. However, the potential of Web services goes far beyond classic business transactions. For example, with Web services, a purchasing agent might complete an application that queries multiple suppliers over the Internet for the prices and availability of their materials or products. Within minutes, the Web service might give the agent a list of options from which to choose. Furthermore, building a Web services application requires a fraction of the interorganizational coordination and cooperation that earlier technologies require.