Cover by Andy Oram, Greg Wilson

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Exposing Services to External Clients

Prior to this project, I had delivered several technical presentations to user groups and conferences regarding SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and web service architecture. So, when the call came in, it seemed I'd be a natural fit for what the client was looking to accomplish. Once I understood what they really needed, though, I decided that they would be much better off with a set of services exposed through simple GET and POST requests over HTTP, exchanging XML data describing the requests and responses. Although I didn't know it at the time, this architectural style is now commonly referred to as REST, or Representational State Transfer.

How did I decide to use REST over SOAP? Here are a few of the decision points to consider when choosing a Web Services architecture:

How many different systems will require access to these services, and are all of them known at this time?

This manufacturer knew of a single distributor that needed to access its systems, but also acknowledged that others might decide to do the same in the future.

Do you have a tight set of end users that will have advance knowledge of these services, or do these services need to be self-describing for anonymous users to automatically connect to?

Because there has to be a defined relationship between the manufacturer and all its distributors, it is guaranteed that each of the potential users will have advance knowledge of how to access the manufacturer's systems.

What kind of ...

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