REST in Java

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Web architecture teaches us that the way to design an application is to identify its important concepts, model them as resources, and assign them Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI) Software agents, such as Web browsers or Web applications, then request these resources, specifying their preferred representation formats The Web server or service responds by transferring the representation of the resource to the agent in the format that most closely satisfies the request
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The selection of the best representation is referred to as content negotiation The agent then transitions to its next state based on the content of the received resource, which typically contains hyperlinks to other resources The hyperlinks are then used for subsequent requests, which cause the agent to transition to a new state This architectural style is referred to as Representational State Transfer (REST), a term coined in 5 of the PhD dissertation Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures [Fielding2000], by Roy Fielding For example, consider League Planet Its important concepts include leagues, schedules, games, teams, and locations Each of these concepts is physically stored in a relational database and is identified by a unique number that acts as its primary key This gives us a simple way to define URIs Each row of the main entity tables corresponds to a URI We create the URI by combining the table name and the primary key value; for example,
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http://wwwleagueplanetcom/resources/game/42
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identifies game number 42 There are a few other key ideas in Web architecture One of the most important is the notion of hyperlinking The representation of a resource will often contain links to other resources An agent will typically follow these links to retrieve related information In the context of Web services, this means that the messages exchanged will often contain references to other Web services A full description of a Web service must also describe the interfaces of these references to other Web services For example, it is not enough to know that the League Planet schedule Web service returns URIs to teams; it is also necessary to know that these URIs are in fact the endpoints of League Planet team Web services Another key idea in REST is the notion of uniform interface, which means that there is a standard set of verbs or methods that can be used to access any resource In HTTP, the most common methods are PUT, GET, POST, and DELETE, which roughly correspond to the Create, Retrieve, Update, and Delete (CRUD) operations on databases In practice, most Web applications just use GET and POST The proper use of GET has important performance benefits GET should be used for operations that are safe, which means that they are idempotent and don t incur any obligations Idempotence means that the result of performing the operation twice is the same as performing it once For example, in banking, getting your account balance is idempotent, but withdrawing money from it is not An obligation could be something like having your account charged for the operation Safe operations admit certain optimizations such as prefetching and caching For example, a Web browser could prefetch linked pages and cache the results to improve response time and reduce network traffic
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CHAPTER 10 Web Services
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Finally, let s examine content negotiation This is the mechanism by which an agent can specify the types of resource representation it prefers to receive in response to a request For example, suppose a Web browser requests an HTML page Part of the request is an HTTP Accept header that lists the image media types that the Web browser can render, with weightings that indicate its preferences When the Web application receives the request, it inspects the Accept header and generates a Web page with links to the image media type that best fit the Web browser s preference A similar mechanism can be used to specify the desired natural language of the response Content negotiation applies also to Web services For example, an AJAX client may prefer a response encoded as JSON as its first choice, then plain XML, and then finally SOAP, since this is the order that minimizes its parsing time The client includes an Accept header in its requests indicating that it accepts these three media types and then assigns them suitable preferences In this way, the AJAX client receives the response in the format that is most efficient for it to process if the Web service provides it, but can still function if the Web service provides other acceptable formats The nice thing about this architecture is that the Web service can be upgraded at a later date to improve performance and the clients will automatically benefit without any modification on their end For example, suppose League Planet provides REST style Web services initially using plain XML, but then finds after reviewing the server logs that many clients prefer JSON The service can then be upgraded to also provide JSON, and the existing clients will experience a performance boost without changing a line of their code
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