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REST-based and resource-oriented web services

The global computer network consists of many more components than Internet users actually perceive when they visit a web page or use an application. Not only people, but also machines can access the data and content of the most diverse web projects. The essential requirement is that managers make their projects accessible to other applications, making the corresponding web service available . A good example is Twitter, where thanks to a particular web service, any application can read or even write tweets on behalf of users.

There are different techniques to implement a software development service like this, such as the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) protocol, the SOAP network protocol or the Representational State Transfer (REST) programming paradigm, which is detailed next.

What’s behind REST?

The term Representational State Transfer was born in 2000 with the doctoral thesis of Roy Fielding, one of the main developers of numerous custom software development company. Fielding describes the architecture on which the World Wide Web is based (HTTP protocol, HTML and XML parser, web and application server, etc.) in an abstract way. However, the REST architecture does not depend, in principle, on specific protocols and its central concept is resources that, according to Fielding, must meet the following requirements:

  • Addressability – Each resource, e.g. For example, an order, product or item must be identifiable by a uniform resource identifier or URI.

  • Uniform interface : each resource must be accessed in a simple and uniform manner with the help of standardized methods. Some examples are HTTP methods such as “GET”, “POST” or “PUT”.

  • Client-Server Structure : In general, the client-server principle is applied when the server makes a service available whenever the client requests it.

  • Statelessness – Communication between server and client is a stateless process. In other words: the messages that are exchanged contain all the information necessary to understand it, so the server does not need to store additional information between two messages in the form of sessions, for example. Statelessness makes REST services easily scalable, as requests within the framework of load distribution are easily distributed across different servers.

  • Variety of resource representations : each resource can be presented in different ways. Depending on what the client requires, the information delivered will have to be available, for example, in different languages or formats, such as HTML, JSON or XML.

  • Hypermedia – Making resources available takes place through hypermedia, e.g. e.g., in the form of “href” and “src” attributes in HTML documents or JSON or XML elements for the corresponding interface. Therefore, the client of a REST API navigates according to the principle of Hypermedia as the Engine of Application State (HATEOAS) using the URLs provided by the server and which do not require additional knowledge about the interface.

The strict rules of the REST architecture make it possible to develop well-structured services that are easy to integrate and communicate using a standardized protocol (HTTP) . Thanks to a resource-oriented structure, in the design of a REST webservice or REST web service the search for specific protocols for applications is not necessary, unlike in the case of alternatives such as SOAP.  

This is how managing a REST service works

When creating a REST service, the HTTP protocol and its encrypted version HTTPS come into play. This is due, on the one hand, to its wide diffusion, which is why it is open in any firewall, and, on the other hand, to the fact that the hypertext transfer protocol, which is a stateless protocol, has a comparatively simple structure and does not needs special implementations. Additionally, the HTTP standard defines a complete range of commands by which resources can be accessed:

For which web pages is REST architecture recommended?

When developing a REST service via HTTP, the most typical commands are GET, POST, PUT/PATCH and DELETE, which highlights that its architecture is only suitable for simple data management. Furthermore, the principle of statelessness in REST resources seems to greatly limit the possibilities of such an architecture. The proper treatment of resources, however, makes the REST interface possible much more than the mere inclusion of data sets, as shown in the following examples:

  • Custom software development services with transaction processing : to carry out services with transactions, it is essential to have a transaction manager. Since resources, due to lack of state, are always saved between two requests without additional information, that is, without an assigned session, the implementation with REST is limited to two possibilities:

  1. Resources are designed in such a way that transactions can be interpreted within the framework of a request.

  2. A resource is created that manages requests for transactions. Each request made available to this resource-transaction manager automatically generates another resource, identified by a URI and representing a transaction related to it. As a consequence, the changes made will be stored in the form of representations of the resource. An additional request made to the transaction manager ends the transaction.

  • Asynchronous web services : For more specific web services, it is recommended that the request and its response be dissociated in time. Since HTTP does not offer any mechanism in this case, service providers only have the option of managing the processing of requests on their own and forwarding them to specific user requests.

  • Web services with extensive interoperability : Representational State Transfer services are distinguished by their great flexibility. This results, on the one hand, from the concentration on a single underlying protocol and, on the other, from the direct directionality of each of the resources. Mobile clients, in particular, benefit from the low requirements of the REST architecture and the easy accessibility of resources that makes it easy for search engines to find them.  

Program web services with REST

The REST framework offers excellent means for the conception and implementation of all types of web services. Because almost all devices support HTTP, both mobile and desktop clients can work with the REST interface easily and without the need for additional implementations. The result is web services that surprise thanks to a high degree of:

  • platform independence ,

  • scalability ,

  • performance ,

  • interoperability

  • and flexibility

However, its use requires the corresponding knowledge, since the interaction between each of the stateless resources becomes a complex process. The very different and unusual principles that underpin REST force us to adapt to a completely different way of working, especially for those accustomed to alternatives such as the SOAP protocol, although, in the end, there is a service applicable to any type of context.

What do you think?

Written by sparkouttech123

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