Thursday, July 24, 2008

Key Best Practices - REST Assured????

The purpose of the blog is to find out if there is a place for REST in the realm of “Business Services”.

First of my definition for REST – it is a "Get", "Put", "Post", "Delete" operations performed on "Resources" that are identified as URIs being transmitted over HTTP(S) as REST.

REST by nature has a very simple service operation set with the complexity all embedded in the Resource URI. The operations that REST allows are NOT business user-friendly and hence do not really belong on the Service Repository that an end user is referencing to discover business services. To accommodate complex business behavior and to compensate for the finite list of RESTful operations the resource identifiers have to be fairly complex.

SOA on the other hand, allows fairly diverse interface definition that resembles as closely to the business syntax as it can get. The canonical model that is shared is standardized and is not as diverse as are the resource URIs of the REST architecture. The canonical models for the most part are XML.

Another key difference lies in the protocol and messaging support for REST. REST is limited to only HTTP/ HTTPS which by nature is stateless and has no standardized protocol level interception model for the more enterprise category behavior such as guaranteed delivery of messages and asynchronous messaging semantics. SOAP and the standardized metadata associated with SOAP envelope on the other hand can be interpreted by the Web Services SOAP stack to enable behaviors such as Reliable Messaging, Transaction Management, Addressing, and Notification with a level of interoperability across-vendor platforms.

Having said that, it is possible to find a home for RESTful architecture and to leverage one of its strong points in terms of a simplified and standardized interface. REST may be a good architecture model or construct to follow in the service implementation layer or at the service adapter layer. This helps to keep the service implementation the same across any type of service interface definition. In the event there is a need for additional transactional integrity then these behaviors could be taken care of in the service facade or in the service mediation layer while keeping the actual implementation in the simplified RESTful architectural format.

If we are looking at SOA service operation being exposed to the world and using a RESTful service implementation layer then we would need to deal with translating canonical models and parameters of SOA style service into URIs. This translation behavior includes extracting the request parameters from the Request canonical model and transforming these to verbs and values in the format of a query string i.e. a URI.

One option is to have the specific URIs needed by the service implementation layer to be translated to the input URIs as specified by the RESTful service implementation layer. Here the service interface layer or the service mediation layer performs the translation of the input parameter into the specific URI and initiates the invocation of the appropriate service implementation layer.

The other option is to have the service interface layer or the service mediation layer translate the input into a generic URI for calling the RESTful implementation layer which in turn does the mapping internally to the required operational version of the URI. This improves the durability of the service interface layer or the service mediation layer. In addition, it provides a mechanism for doing internal operation overloading and polymorphism.

Regardless of which option is chosen, I would think that embedding RESTful services in the implementation layer would be a good option while not exposing painfully abstract behavior to the business user who is used to seeing more of English like business syntax.

Here is a link to another blog of mine on the topic in the context of Service Orientation!

Even though I agree that there is a place for REST as it may simplify (by providing a finite set of operations) there are infrastructural capabilities that do not exist with the REST and without these the business agility piece is going to be hard to deliver. Here are some additional thoughts on the topic that an enterprise architect may have to resolve prior to embarking on a RESTful implementation.

  1. Identify which layer deals with the interpretation of the get(Resource) call? Is it the service provider (SP) interface or is it the service implmentation layer?
  2. Would the SP be dealing with versioning of the Resource thereby creating a grand facade that does internal resource mapping via a URL redirect style substitution? This would be one way of protecting the service consumer (SC) and to accomplish backward compatibility.
  3. Identify how the SC gets the handle or URL to the "right" resource? How does it "know" what to expect from the Resource and how does it "know" to express its' semantic expectations for the SP Resource that is being called upon? Does it do a "Get(SearchByCriteriaResource)" call with semantics embedded in the Request Resource?
  4. Is the get(RightResource) another call and somehow the metadata held in the response Resource is expected to have the "right metadata" for each of the provider Resources (that meet the SC search criteria) in order to help the SC choose the right SP? If this is the case, then following this invocation would be a secondary SC to SP interaction to fetch the chosen SP Resource.
  5. Identify if there would be a standardized URI with search criteria specification. This might be good to define up-front to enable the support of JINI-like or SaaS like interactions?
  6. Identify and define how one would deal with asynchronous interactions? Would it be via the use of " ack/ no-ack post notifications" and "post response Resource" calls? How would this be to handled? The SC would have to provide a pre-set "call back" Resource identifier to which the SP would have to reply back to?
  7. Would existing messaging infrastructures still work as most of them have proprietary protocols or else they support JMS/ RMI?
  8. Identify a URI for brokering of the two-part synchronous post HTTP call to. This would be for enabling the pseudo-asynchronous interaction semantics. Is the centralized broker URI all that is needed to broker the two part synch call for faking the Asynch interaction semantics especially if the architecture does not have to deal with message delivery guarantee? I assume "post" might have void return type communication model to enable releasing of calling address space resources?
  9. Would one have to leverage any "Registry" or ESB like middleware or "service grid" like infrastructures? If so, how does would resource proxying work? Would the proxy Resources’ "forward" their calls to the right Resource?
  10. Would this mean that the middleware and mediation layer products need to know how to deal with this type of an interaction semantic where the "Registries", ESB, "service grids/ service marketplaces" are all metadata-driven Resource proxies with built-in support for REST - as opposed to service proxies as would be the case in SOA style architectural models.

Thanks in advance for your feedback.

surekha -

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