What You Need to Know About REST

Loraine Lawson

I'm seeing a lot of information these days about using REST - representational state transfer - and its use within service-oriented architecture.


Right now, REST isn't used with SOA. It's XML over HTTP, and is generally used to link external sources to internal applications. Amazon's Web Services is one of the best-known repositories of REST-based services, according to this post on the FASTForward blog.


Advocates say leading-edge adopters are starting to tap REST for internal services, and that means using it with SOA. They also predict that - excuse the pun - the rest of us will probably need four or five years to catch on to its use within the enterprise.


  • One of the reasons REST is suddenly attracting so much tech press attention is the May, 2007 release of RESTful Web Services, from O'Reilly Media. InfoQ recently published a Q&A with authors Leonard Richardson and Sam Ruby. This is a great starting place for understand the REST architecture and Web services. It also includes a link to a sample chapter from the book.
  • The FASTForward post plunges into the argument over whether REST can compete with SOAP and WS when it comes to intra-application integration. It also explains how REST can help create better mashups. This post includes tons of links to other great REST resources.
  • "SOA, Web Services, and RESTful Systems: A framework for building RESTful systems," published at Dr. Dobb's Portal, offers more technical explanation of REST architecture, systems and a service framework. It includes diagrams and code samples.
  • Beyond the argument over SOAP, WS and REST, there's a more fundamental disagreement in the tech community between those who advocate internal integration of services - SOA - and those who look to Web services for integration. Optimize Magazine examined this debate in March, and, as part of that discussion, it mentioned that standards such as REST and Plain Old XML (POX) over HTTP are emerging as "legitimate and very credible ways of delivering on the value proposition of Web services."
  • And for a more critical analysis of REST and its limitations, check out this blog post from Stu Says Stuff. Don't be fooled by the blog's casual title; it's written by Stuart Charlton, an enterprise architect and technical manager for BEA Systems' Strategic Consulting Services, in Toronto, Canada.

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