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2.2. Mapping data into logical data units


The interfaces used to implement a service define the data representing operation parameters as XML documents. If you are defining an interface for a service that is already implemented, you must translate the data types of the implemented operations into discreet XML elements that can be assembled into messages. If you are starting from scratch, you must determine the building blocks from which your messages are built, so that they make sense from an implementation standpoint.

Available type systems for defining service data units

According to the WSDL specification, you can use any type system you choose to define data types in a WSDL contract. However, the W3C specification states that XML Schema is the preferred canonical type system for a WSDL document. Therefore, XML Schema is the intrinsic type system in Apache CXF.

XML Schema as a type system

XML Schema is used to define how an XML document is structured. This is done by defining the elements that make up the document. These elements can use native XML Schema types, like xsd:int, or they can use types that are defined by the user. User defined types are either built up using combinations of XML elements or they are defined by restricting existing types. By combining type definitions and element definitions you can create intricate XML documents that can contain complex data.
When used in WSDL XML Schema defines the structure of the XML document that holds the data used to interact with a service. When defining the data units used by your service, you can define them as types that specify the structure of the message parts. You can also define your data units as elements that make up the message parts.

Considerations for creating your data units

You might consider simply creating logical data units that map directly to the types you envision using when implementing the service. While this approach works, and closely follows the model of building RPC-style applications, it is not necessarily ideal for building a piece of a service-oriented architecture.
The Web Services Interoperability Organization’s WS-I basic profile provides a number of guidelines for defining data units and can be accessed at In addition, the W3C also provides the following guidelines for using XML Schema to represent data types in WSDL documents:
  • Use elements, not attributes.
  • Do not use protocol-specific types as base types.