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In-Depth Information
While REST has many similarities to the more traditional ways of writing SOA applications,
it is very different in many important ways. You would think that a background in distributed
computing would be an asset to understanding this new way of creating web services, but un-
fortunately this is not always the case. The reason is that some of the concepts of REST are
hard to swallow, especially if you have written successful SOAP or CORBA applications. If
your career has a foundation in one of these older technologies, there's a bit of emotional
baggage you will have to overcome. For me, it took a few months of reading, researching,
and intense arguing with REST evangelists (aka RESTafarians). For you, it may be easier.
Others will never pick REST over something like SOAP and WS-*.
Let's examine each of the architectural principles of REST in detail and why they are import-
ant when you are writing a web service.
Addressability is the idea that every object and resource in your system is reachable through
a unique identifier. This seems like a no-brainer, but if you think about it, standardized object
identity isn't available in many environments. If you have tried to implement a portable J2EE
application, you probably know what I mean. In J2EE, distributed and even local references
to services are not standardized, which makes portability really difficult. This isn't such a big
deal for one application, but with the new popularity of SOA, we're heading to a world
where disparate applications must integrate and interact. Not having something as simple as
standardized service addressability adds a whole complex dimension to integration efforts.
In the REST world, addressability is managed through the use of URIs. When you make a re-
quest for information in your browser, you are typing in a URI. Each HTTP request must
contain the URI of the object you are requesting information from or posting information to.
The format of a URI is standardized as follows:
scheme: //host:port/path?queryString#fragment
The scheme is the protocol you are using to communicate with. For RESTful web services, it
is usually http or https . The host is a DNS name or IP address. It is followed by an option-
al port , which is numeric. The host and port represent the location of your resource on the
network. Following host and port is a path expression. This path expression is a set of text
segments delimited by the “/” character. Think of the path expression as a directory list of a
file on your machine. Following the path expression is an optional query string. The “?”
character separates the path from the query string. The query string is a list of parameters
represented as name/value pairs. Each pair is delimited with the “&” character. Here's an ex-
ample query string within a URI:
http: //
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