We describe the goals and initial implementation of the International Solid Earth Virtual Observatory (iSERVO). This system is built using a Web Services approach to Grid computing infrastructure and is accessed via a component-based Web portal user interface. We describe our implementations of services used by this system, including Geographical Information System (GIS)-based data grid services for accessing remote data repositories and job management services for controlling multiple execution steps. iSERVO is an example of a larger trend to build globally scalable scientific computing infrastructures using the Service Oriented Architecture approach. Adoption of this approach raises a number of research challenges in millisecond-latency message systems suitable for internet-enabled scientific applications. We review our research in these areas.