Smart Storage

Integrating with Web Services

Get a (very) quick introduction to integrating manufacturing systems with web services

In our last post we discussed using files to transfer data between manufacturing systems. While this has been one of the most common methods of data transfer, it isn't always the best way to share information. In this post we'll discuss using web services instead of files.

Instant data transfer

Web service is a catch-all term, but at its core a web service is an application that provides and/or consumes data through a network using HTTP requests rather than files and file systems. Similar to file transfers, the two integrating parties require an agreed-upon data format to send and receive data, but web services will usually rely on more standardized protocols like XML, SOAP, GraphQL, and so on. 

Web service communication allows different systems to communicate in real-time, much faster than with creating and processing individual files. This real-time communication alone is generally worth it in manufacturing operations where it's critical to always have the most up-to-date information available. 

Secure and scalable

Generally file transfer systems are secured with assigning specific rights to machines or users within a network. Web services can be secured in similar ways, by restricting access to specific IPs, but you can add different layers of authentication. You can require access tokens to be provided with every request and requests can be easily encrypted using HTTPS. Similar types of security can be achieved with file systems, but they significantly increase the maintenance overhead and time to process each file.

For similar reasons, web services are much more scalable as systems grow over time. Files take longer to process than HTTP requests, and in our experience we commonly see that file processing time can actually increase exponentially as machines take more and more resources to process more and more files in large systems. With web services you do not have the overhead of working with file systems, which allows resource usage to scale more linearly over time. 

Web services are often the best option

For the above reasons - and many more! - we generally believe that web service communication will result in the best overall experience for integrating different manufacturing systems. There are still good use cases for file transfers, so our next post will discuss why you might choose one over the other.

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