WSDL stands for Web Service Definition Language. It is essentially an abstract interface definition that spells out concrete bindings to on-the-wire formatting of the messages.
Here is an example WSDL file that we will use in this guide:
The root element (disregard the <?xml ...?> prolog) of any WSDL must be the wsdl:definitions element:
This declares the named WSDL (in this case TestWSDL) and defines any namespaces that will be used in the rest of the document. You will almost always see the following namespace declarations:
This is the WSDL namespace and it is often declared as the default namespace so the WSDL elements don't have to have namespace prefixes.
This is the XSD (XML Schema Definitions) namespace and it is used to declare schemas and any simple types.
This is the SOAP binding namespace and is used to tie this WSDL to SOAP messages (see below).
Sometimes you will see targetNamespace declarations, which essentially place any defined objects into the specified namespace, so they will have to be accessed through that URI. This is especially useful when you have multiple WSDL files which may define similar operations or types.
User-defined types may be declared in one of two ways: either in the WSDL itself, or in a separate schema file. To import a schema file, use the wsdl:import element:
<import namespace="[URI in which to place the declared types]" location="[file name]"/>
This will pull the given schema into the WSDL and all of the types will be available through the given namespace URI. The other way to declare types is to place the schema in a wsdl:types element. The types element contains one child: the xsd:schema element. For more information on schemas and schema structure, please see <link to XSD KB article or other Schema informational source>.
For our purposes in our example, we will deal with a simple user-defined type.
Messages are the basis for all input/output for a WSDL and its operations. They form the core of all data transfer mechanisms for WSDLs.
All messages are essentially maps of named parts. In this case, we have two messages, each with one part. Below, we will show an example of messages with more than one part.
Parts must have a name and either an element or type declaration. If the part is defined as an element via the element="foo" directive, then it must directly correspond to a <xsd:element name="foo" type="..."> definition in a schema. If the part is defined as a type via the type="fooType"directive, then it must correspond to either a <xsd:complexType name="fooType"> or a <xsd:simpleType name="fooType"> in a schema.
The distinction between type and element here is slight but important. Parts that are elements will contain the specified element, whereas parts that are types will become that specified type. This will become important when we begin to go over actual instance documents in the SOAP message section below.
Operations in WSDL are grouped by interface grouping, or port type. These operations are specified in abstract in the WSDL and the concrete implementation essentially implements this abstract interface. The concrete specifications are supplied in the bindings section.
This defines a port type grouping called RecordOperations with two operations: addRecord and deleteRecord. Both of these operations take the same input and output: a RecordInput message in and a RecordOperationResult out.
A port type declaration can have 0 to N operations, although you will typically have at least one operation for each port type declaration. Each operation can define an input message, an output message, and as many fault messages as necessary. The combination of input and/or output declarations determines the operation types as well as the types of errors the operation can return:
Request-Response is the most commonly-used standard WSDL operation. A request is sent, the operation is executed, and a response is returned. While the operation is being executed, the client connection (the side that sent the request) will wait for the response. This can cause problems with HTTP, which has a timeout period, after which the socket will be reset with an error. Any number of faults (including none) can be specified. These dictate what sorts of error responses the client can expect to receive from the operation. It is much like the throws specifier in Java and C++.
One-way is other standard supported WSDL operation type. Basically, a request is sent and the operation is executed, but the client need not wait around for a response, because no response will ever be sent. This is useful with operations that are performing some asynchronous operation that does not need to return a success condition, or any data.
Solicit-Response and Notification operations are only supported by extensions to the WSDL bindings or by specialized WSDL implementations.
These diagrams illustrate the differences between the operation types:
The binding section attaches an abstract interface to a concrete messaging structure. By far, the most common type of binding is a SOAP binding (discussed below in the Guide: SOAP article). But basically, the binding section of a WSDL has as its first child element, a concrete binding element. The binding element namespace dictates the concrete binding to use. Different concrete binding elements expect different attributes. The next elements under the WSDL binding are the operations. These should match the operations specified in the port type element. Under each operation is a concrete operation element. The concrete operation element's namespace and structure is dictated by the specific concrete implementation (such as the SOAP Binding namespace in our example). The same input, output, and fault elements should be present here as were declared in the port type section above.
These concrete bindings are all wrapped up into a named binding, which will be exposed on a port (see the next section).
This WSDL defines a binding called RecordBindings, tied concretely to a SOAP binding and using HTTP as its transport mechanism. The style set in the soap:binding here is applicable to all of the operations for this binding, unless a concrete SOAP binding overrides the setting individually. This binding contains within it two operations: addRecord, and deleteRecord, which were defined in the port type section. Both of these operations are bound concretely as SOAP operations and will be sent in document style. The input and output for both operations are both bound to SOAP bodies and will be sent without any encoding (literal). Neither operation defines any specific faults that they will send. Note that the operations set their own style, although they match document style set in the soap:binding. In this case, the style attributes in the operations can be removed, but the style CAN be overridden at an operation level if desired. Another point of interest is to notice that different operations can specify different styles, encodings, and whether to use parts of elements or of types, than other operations, or even different options in the request than the response. However, it is highly suggested that all of the SOAP options be kept consistent for ease-of-use, maintainability, and compliance.
The service section of the WSDL exposes this binding to the outside world.
In order to make an operation available to the outside world, it must be exposed by a port. A port in a WSDL and a port in TCP are similar concepts. In TCP, you can have multiple ports on an IP that are entry points to services on a single machine. In WSDL, one server can expose operations on different ports. These ports are then bound with a concrete address element, which, like the bindings above, are declared in a different namespace and have their own attributes. The most commonly used address is the SOAP address as in this example:
This WSDL snippet creates a WSDL service named RecordService and populates it with one port named RecordServicePort. This port ties the RecordBindings binding declared above to an HTTP address: http://localhost:8090/RecordOps. A WSDL service can have multiple ports, which can tie different binding objects to different addresses. This WSDL service is the external endpoint used to access the ports and the operations defined in the WSDL.
For a SOAP address, the port ties a binding to an HTTP URI. This URI is sent in the HTTP message as the location. When that location is received, the server knows which binding is attached to that address, and by the SOAP message (either through RPC, or through the soapAction header), the server knows which operation in that binding. Thus, it follows that only one binding can be mapped to a particular location, because otherwise the system wouldn't know which binding to pick. However, a single binding can be mapped to multiple addresses, because the system would still know which binding to use based on the address.
WS-I Profile 1.2: http://www.ws-i.org/Profiles/BasicProfile-1.2.html
WSDL 1.1 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/wsdl
SOAP 1.1 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/2000/NOTE-SOAP-20000508/
XSD data types spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/2004/REC-xmlschema-2-20041028/datatypes.html
Guide to choosing WSDL styles: http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/webservices/library/ws-whichwsdl/