Service-oriented computing is considered to be a natural progression from component-based software development. In the late 1990s developers were getting tired of writing the same functions over and over again, and they began to create components that encapsulated common functions. Then they would use these components in their code or sell them to their customers. This paradigm was carried over to the world of Web services.
Web services is an example of service-oriented computing. A company may create a Web service that customers can connect to, enumerate to see what functions are exposed by the Web service and then code for this Web service. The advantages of Web services are that they're platform independent (your customers can essentially run any OS), secure and scalable. They're also Web-based, so they run over Port 80, which many firewalls do not block.
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