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REST (Representational State Transfer)



Although not a newcomer to Web services, REST (Representational State Transfer) has been overshadowed by SOAP. REST holds appeal because it offers a simpler and easier-to-implement architectural style than SOAP.

The W3C governs the standards used to implement REST-based services, including HTTP, URI, XML and RDF. There are no vendors "supporting" REST; it is a style, not a specification, and vendor support comes only through support of the standards upon which REST is built. REST-based services are offered by a wide variety of online vendors and sites (such as Amazon, Bloglines, Google GData, eBay and

REST requires very little investment on the part of developers, building instead on well-known protocols--a definite plus. The technology will continue to gain mind share, and it is likely already ensconced within most enterprise data centers. But REST is not appropriate in many critical scenarios, and care should be taken to ensure that REST is used in situations where a full SOAP stack is simply overkill.

Long before SOA became a buzzword and SOAP became a necessary part of your SOA infrastructure, there was REST. And though SOAP and its other WS-* specs have stolen the limelight from this alternative service-oriented architecture, REST is gaining a lot of traction as Web 2.0 takes the Internet by storm.

REST (Representational State Transfer)--which was detailed in Roy Thomas Fielding's doctorate dissertation "Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures" six years ago--can dramatically reduce the investment necessary to provide service-oriented access to enterprise resources. Fielding used the term to describe a technique and best practices for retrieving data formatted in XML over HTTP for use in applications.

Both and eBay use SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and REST APIs, and have seen heavy use of REST since their inceptions. In fact, there are services within every organization, such as those used to access static or nearly static resources, that could benefit from REST. However, REST is based on HTTP, and so it inherits all the good and bad aspects of the protocol. It's much simpler than SOAP, but, like HTTP, it's stateless and unreliable. For critical services, SOAP has some important advantages.

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