API Complexity in Java

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API Complexity
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Service APIs can be designed to be as specific or as general as needed As an API gets more specific, it generally needs to include more entry points and calls, raising the overall complexity In the beginning, it s a good idea to design for the general case As users of a service request more specific functionality, the service can be built up APIs that take into account the most general cases with calls that contain the simplest business logic are said to be atomic More complicated APIs may enable the retrieval of multiple IDs in a single call (multi-gets) or the retrieval or updating of multiple models within a single service call
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The initial version of an API should be atomic That is, it should expose only basic functions that can be used to compose more advanced functionality For example, an API that has a single GET that returns the data for different models would not be considered atomic The atomic version of the API would return only a single type of model in each GET request and force the client to make additional requests for other related models However, as an API matures, it makes sense to include convenience methods that include more data and functionality However, simple atomic APIs can be taken too far For example, the interface for retrieving the list of comments for a single user in the social feed reader is non-atomic It returns the actual comments in the response A more atomic version of the API would return only the comment IDs and the URIs to get each comment The expectation is that the client will get the comments it needs As long as these GETs can be done in parallel, it doesn t matter that you have to do many to get a full list of comments In theory, the parallel request model works However, in practice it s more convenient to just return the list of comments in the actual request It makes the most sense for clients because in almost all cases, they want the full comments instead of just the IDs Atomicity is about returning only the data that a client needs and not stuffing the response with other objects This is similar to performing joins at the highest level As you develop an application and services, it may make sense to have special-case requests that return more data In the beginning, it pays to make only the simplest API and expand as you find you need to
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You might want to provide a multi-get API when you commonly have to request multiple single resources at one time You provide a list of IDs and get a response with those objects For example, the social feed reader application should have multiget functionality to return a list of feed entry objects, given a list of IDs Here is an example of a request/response:
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REQUEST GET /api/v1/feed_entries ids=1,2 RESPONSE: [{ "id" : 1, "feed_id" : 45,
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API Complexity "title" : "an entry", "content" : "this is an entry", "url" : "http://pauldixnet/1"}, {"id" : 2, "feed_id" : 78, "title" : "another", "content" : "another entry", "url" : "http://pauldixnet/2"} ]
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For service clients, the advantage of using this approach is that the clients are able to get all the entries with a single request However, there are potential disadvantages First, how do you deal with error conditions What if one of the requested IDs was not present in the system One solution is to return a hash with the requested IDs as the keys and have the values look the same as they would if they were responses from a single resource request The second possible disadvantage is that it may complicate caching logic for the service Take, for example, a service that runs on multiple servers To ensure a high cache hit ratio, you have a load balancer in front of these servers that routes requests based on the URL This ensures that a request for a single resource will always go to the same server With multi-get requests, the resources being requested may not be cached on the server the request gets routed to At that point, you either have to make a request to the server that has the cached item or store another copy The workaround for this is to have the servers within a service communicate to all of the service s caching servers
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