Feeds

Time to balance WS-* and REST

Relative needs

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The WS-* stack was conceived and driven forward by IBM and Microsoft, with other vendors cooperating on specifications where they had relevant expertise (Verisign on Security, BEA Systems on transactions and so on). The design philosophy was for a relatively simple and efficient basic mode of operation, with optional features added independently of each other.

More recently, though, something else has taken root among developers building distributed applications: Representational State Transfer (REST). As ever with technology, the debate over WS-* and REST has settled on the death of one technology and the rise of the other. The truth, though, lies somewhere in between.

WS-* is a veritable pyramid of specifications piled on top of Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Web Services Description Language (WSDL). The first addition was Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI), followed after a couple of years by WS-Security, then WS-Coordination, WS-Transaction, BPEL, WS-Manageability, WS-Addressing, WS-ReliableMessaging, WS-Federation, WS-MetadataExchange.

Both Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) and .NET have extensive built-in support for serving and consuming web services. Indeed, as this list clearly shows, Java EE 5 includes no fewer than seven web service related specifications. On the Windows platform, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) is now the default way of using web services from the .NET Framework. Thanks to IBM, WS-* even provides a suitable framework for building grid applications using WS-ReliableMessaging, WS-Distributed Management, WS-Notification, and WS-ResourceFramework. Good overviews of the vast extent of WS-* and related specifications are offered by Thomas Erl and innoQ (among many others). InnoQ also provides a color poster that graphically illustrates the sheer scale of the WS-* architecture.

Before SOAP was invented, back in 1998, there was Dave Winer's XML-RPC. In contrast to WS-*, XML-RPC was designed to make life easier for individuals and small organizations. Therefore it was kept extremely simple and lightweight, at the cost of giving up most of the sophisticated "optional extras" that WS-* offers. Alongside XML-RPC, a whole range of ad-hoc approaches to lightweight web services have sprung up. These are referred to generically as "XML-over-HTTP".

Which brings us to REST, that mysterious acronym that turns up so frequently in today's media, newsgroups, and blogs. REST is not a language, or a protocol, or an architecture. Strictly speaking, it is an architectural style - specifically, the architectural style of the web.

To build a RESTful web service, all you need to know is:

1. What are the resources to be served? (URIs)

2. In what format is the data encoded? (HTML, XHTML)

3. Which methods are supported by each URI? (GET, PUT, POST)

4. What status codes may be returned? (error, warning, information)

REST boils everything down to bare essentials: nouns (resources), verbs (HTTP operations), and data formats (usually XML applications). It is a cardinal principle that every separate method or function should have its own URI; and, ideally, URIs should never change or be withdrawn.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Google opens Inbox – email for people too thick to handle email
Print this article out and give it to someone tech-y if you get stuck
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Entity Framework goes 'code first' as Microsoft pulls visual design tool
Visual Studio database diagramming's out the window
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.