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Posts Tagged ‘api

Quit pretending, use the web for real: the c# client

with one comment

The first post of the ‘Quit pretending, use the web for real‘ was on how one could use Restfulie for Rails to leverage its application, the second one described the same approach for a Java client and server implementation using VRaptor.

This third post is a short description/annnouncement of the Restfulie C# client which has just been released. Luiz Costa, a Caelum instructor and Sergio Junior, have developed the client which resembles Restfulie’s Rails client API due to C# dynamic nature.

You can access the representation’s elements:

dynamic order = entry.At("http://www.caelum.com.br/orders/3.xml").Get();
Console.WriteLine(order.product) ;

And navigate through links

Console.WriteLine(order.Related().name);
order.Cancel();

As usual, it’s source code can be found at github and is released with the same license. The C# client dll can be download at google code. Luiz has posted a portuguese announcement in his blog

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Written by guilhermesilveira

January 14, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in c#, restful

Tagged with , , , ,

Hypermedia and dynamic contracts: let my bandwidth rest!

with 10 comments

“Break it” to scale!

Many systems contain webpages that are very similar to user “custom pages”, where they can configure what they want to see, and every piece is aggregated from different sources into one single page.

In some cases, those are widget based frameworks as wicket and gwt that can be added to my custom page; in other cases you have aggregating portals.

An example of this kind of application (even though its not configurable) is a retail website containing four sections in its home page: the top 10, my orders, random items, and weird items.

In this case, all information come from the same source, but every part has a different probable validity if it is going to be cached. If the page is served as one big chunck of information, it will always be stale due to the random items section. “My orders” is stale only when I place a new order and, in the same way, the top 10 is only stale if any item is bought and surpasses the number of times the 10th item was bought so far.

One of the main issues with this type of pages which aggregate information from one or many sources with different expire-expectations is that cached versions in proxies and clients become stale faster than it should for some elements: once one of this providing sources publishes new information or is updated, the entire representation becomes stale..

Martin Fowler described once a well spread approach to allow those pages to be partially cached within local proxies and clients, thus sharing requested representations between multiple users.

The approach

Given the coffee scenario, one would create different json representations:

And finally an aggregating page:

<html>
<a class="lazy_load" href="http://restbucks.com/top_sellers">Top sellers</a>
<a class="lazy_load" href="http://restbucks.com/my_orders">My orders</a>
<a class="lazy_load" href="http://restbucks.com/random_items">Random items</a>
<a class="lazy_load" href="http://restbucks.com/weird_items">Weird items</a>

And then, for each lazy_load link, we create a div with its content:

<script>
$('.lazy_load').each(function(link) {
  uri = link.attr('href'); 
  div = $('
').load(uri); // cache hits! link.after(div); }); </script> </html>

This allows our proxies to cache each component in our page apart from the page itself: whenever one page’s content becomes stale in a proxy, only part of that page needs update.

In a web were most data can be cached and does not become stale so fast, this technique should usually lessen the amount of data being transfered between client and server.

All one needs to do is properly use the http headers for caching.

Remember that if your client supports either parallel requests to the server and/or keep-alive connection, the results might be even better.

Distributed systems? Linked resources?

Roy Fielding mentions that in the data view in REST systems, “small or medium-grain messages are used for control semantics, but the bulk of application work is accomplished via large-grain messages containing a complete resource representation.”

Pretty much in the same way as with the human web, a distributed system using the web as its infrastructure will gain the same cache benefits as long as they implement correct caching policies through http headers (and correct http verbs).

When your server provides a resource representation linking to a series of other related resources the client and proxies staying on the way will be allowed to cache each and every other resource on its own.

This approach results, again, in changes applied to one resource not affecting cached representations of other resources. An stale representation will not affect those accessing other resources within the same context.

Sometimes the decision whether to change latency for scalability might depend on how you think your clients will use your resources: in the human web mentioned above, the developer knew exactly how its clients would access it.

In distributed systems using REST, guessing how resources will be used can be dangerous as it allows you to tight couple yourself to this behaviour while published resources can and would be used in unforeseen ways.

Roy’s dissertation seems to apply here to balance things: “a protocol that requires multiple interactions per user action, in order to do things like negotiate feature capabilities prior to sending a content response, will be perceptively slower than a protocol that sends whatever is most likely to be optimal first and then provides a list of alternatives for the client to retrieve if the first response is unsatisfactory”.

Giving information that will help most cases is fine and providing links to further resources details allow you to balance between latency and scalability (due to caching) as you wish.

Dynamic contracts

This is only possible because we have signed dynamic contracts with our clients. They expect us to follow some formal format definition (defined in xhtml) and processes. How our processes are presented within our representations is the dynamic part of the contract.

While the fixed part can be validated with the use of schema validators, the dynamic part – the process – which is guided by our server needs to be validated through testing the behaviour of our applications: asserting that hypermedia guided transitions should be reflected in our application state.

Nowadays

On the other hand, many contemporary systems use the POST verb receiving a response including many representations at once or the GET verb without any cache related headers: thus not profiting from the web infrastructure at all. This could changed with one (or both) of the following:

  • use the GET verb with cache headers
  • use hypermedia and micro formats to describe relations between resources

Using it might present similar results as hypermedia+GET+cache headers in the human web – and some styles might already be providing support for it, although not being a constraint.

Note that in this case hypermedia is not driving the application state, but helping with scalability issues.

Progressive enhancement

Martin notes that this is a kind of progressive enhancement: although its definition is related to accessibility, its control over bandwidth benefits are similar to the approach mentioned ones.

Any other systems that use hyperlinks to “break” representations and scale?

Written by guilhermesilveira

December 10, 2009 at 9:15 am

RESTEasy: Where did the hypermedia go to?

with 15 comments

Some friends have asked what are the major differences between Restfulie and RESTEasy client frameworks.

Strong coupling and hypermedia awareless

As of today, Resteasy requires you to create an interface mapping every resource operation to a specific method, using @VerbName and @Path annotations to specify the desired target URI.

RESTEasy is ignoring the power of hypermedia content on the client side, thus being level 2 according to Leonard Richardson, and not matching Roy Fielding’s description.

RESTEasy is not Roy’s REST

According to Roy Fielding:

But hypertext as the engine of hypermedia state is also about late binding of application alternatives that guide the client through whatever it is that we are trying to provide as a service.

And any effort spent describing what methods to use on what URIs of interest should be entirely defined within the scope of the processing rules for a media type

Guess what? Java interfaces with @VerbName + @Path annotations means early binding, means an effort trying to describe which methods to use on which URI’s: tighter coupling, less space to evolve your server systems.

Going further:

It is fundamental to the goal of removing all coupling aside from the standardized data formats and the initial bookmark URI.

Restfulie provides a way to access only the initial bookmark URI, everything else is derived from navigating through your resources and its states.

Roy’s dissertation puts his believe quite clear in hypermedia being an important point of the web in chapter 5, his first paragraph: “Representational State Transfer (REST) architectural style for distributed hypermedia systems”.

RESTEasy got it right when it allows the user to access multiple URIs and the http protocol as the application protocol. But it still helps creating strongly coupled systems. Those who use JAXB (JAX-RS required) and fixed xml schemas do not allow server to evolve without prior notice to their clients. Ian Robinson has written about links in his blog and – another option – contract based systems in ThoughtWorks Anthology.

Back in 2007, there was a nice discussion on SOA allowing the users to create strongly coupled systems, where Mark Baker cleared it: SOA is constraintless, therefore one can create strongly and loosely coupled systems.

RESTEasy not supporting hypermedia content by default matches Roy’s definition of unrestful:

In other words, not RESTful at all. REST without the hypertext constraint is like pipe-and-filter without the pipes: completely useless because it no longer induces any interesting properties.

Although RESTEasy supports atom feeds, which is a good point, if the client wants a real hypemedia aware resource, he has to work on the deserialization process on his own.

RESTEasy does not provide the class generation mechanism that Restfulie (both Java and Ruby) provides so end users are able to transverse your resource’s tree and states without prior knowledge of every other URI.

According to Roy, one of the key benefits of the REST archicture style is its visibility through out the entire layered system:

REST is an architectural style that, when followed, allows components to carry out their functions in a way that maximizes the most important architectural properties of a multi-organizational, network-based information system. In particular, it maximizes the growth of identified information within that system, which increases the utility of the system as a whole.

By fixing all URI’s on the client side, along with not supporting hypermedia content by default, RESTEasy provides less information to layers contained between the server and the client: thus less visibility.

Server side

The same issues arrive when talking about the server side: RESTEasy does not provide any default interface for hypermedia content, but JAX-RS default support to JAXB: plain xml. It is up to (good) programmers to know how to make use of hypermedia systems in order to create a loosely coupled system.

Languages

Another key point on Restfulie’s approach is that it is Java-INdependent. Every month we see a larger number of integration software being developed in other languages: Restfulie can already help Java and Ruby developers.

Written by guilhermesilveira

December 3, 2009 at 6:05 am

Posted in java, restful, ruby

Tagged with , , , , , , , , ,

Restfulie Java: quit pretending, start using the web for real

with 5 comments

Its time to release Restfulie Java, offering the same power encountered in its ruby release, through the use of dynamic bytecode generation and request interception using VRaptor.

Serialization framework

Restfulie adopts XStream by default. Its simple usage and configuration gets even easier due to vraptor’s serialization extension built upon XStream – but it allows the usage of other serializers.

The following code will serialize the order object including its children items (much similar to rails to_xml only option):

serializer.from(order).include("items").serialize();

Connected: Hypermedia content creation

In order to guide the client from one application state to another, the server needs to create and dispatch links that can be interpreted by the client machine, thus the need for generating hypermedia aware serialization tools and consumer apis.

Its the basic usage of the web in a software-to-software communication level.

Pretty much like Restfulie’s ruby implementation, by implementing the getFollowingTransitions method, restfulie will serialize your
resource, generating its representation with hypermedia links:

public List getFollowingTransitions(Restfulie control) {
  if (status.equals("unpaid")) {
    control.transition(OrderingController.class).cancel(this);
    control.transition(OrderingController.class).pay(this,null);
  }
  if(status.equals("paid")) {
    control.transition(OrderingController.class).retrieve(this);
  }
  return control.getTransitions();
}

Controller interception

Restfulie for Java goes further, intercepting transition invocations and checking for its status. The following example will only be executed if order is in a valid state for paying:

@Post @Path("/order/{order.id}/pay")
@Consumes("application/xml")
@Transition
public void pay(Order order, Payment payment) {
	order = database.getOrder(order.getId());
	order.pay(payment);
	result.use(xml()).from(order.getReceipt()).serialize();
}

Why?

Restfulie does not provide a bloated solution with huge api’s, trying to solve every other problem in the world. According to Richardson Maturity Model, systems are called RESTFul when they support this kind of state flow transition through hypermedia content contained within resources representations:

<order>
 <product>basic rails course</product>
 <product>RESTful training</product>
 <atom:link rel="refresh" href="http://www.caelum.com.br/orders/1" xmlns:atom="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom"/>
 <atom:link rel="pay" href="http://www.caelum.com.br/orders/1/pay" xmlns:atom="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom"/>
 <atom:link rel="cancel" href="http://www.caelum.com.br/orders/1" xmlns:atom="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom"/>
</order>

Stateless state

In order to profit even more from the web infrastructure, Restfulie for Java provides a (client state) stateless api.

Addressability

VRaptor’s controller api allows you to specify custom URI’s (and http verbs) to identify resources (and transitions) in your system.

Addressability + client cache stateless state server allows one to achieve REST’s idea on cache usage and its related layered systems advantages by allowing other layers to be added between the client and the server.

Unknown usage of my resources

Addressability + hypermedia content allows clients to use your resources pretty much in a way that was not tought of at first. Addresses (in our case, URI’s) can be passed around from one application to another, to and from a client’s internal database (as simple as a browser favorites, or google gears).

Building your system upon such basis, it become unaware of its resources usage (resource representation’s interpretation) patterns, allowing clients to create such previously unknown systems.

Less and simpler code, more results

Both on the server and client side, restfulie tries to achieve results based on conventions, therefore one can easily access its entry api to insert a resource in a system, i.e.:

  Movie solino = new Movie();
  resource("http://www.caelum.com.br/movies").include("metadata").post(solino);

And after creating a resource, one can actually navigate through your resource’s connections:

  Movie solino = resource("http://www.caelum.com.br/movies/solino").get();
  Comments comments = resource(solino).getTransition("comments").executeAndRetrieve();
  // print all comments

And navigate through your resource’s states:

  Comments comments = resource(solino).getTransition("comments").executeAndRetrieve();

  Comment comment = new Comment("nice movie on generations of immigrants and the hard times that they face when moving to a new place");
  resource(comments).getTransition("add").execute(comment);

A lot of good practices should be put into place in order to avoid creating Leonard Richardson’s defined REST-RPC alike systems.

Those good practices involve simple steps as avoiding anemic models on the client side . Restfulie+Vraptor already tries to avoid this on the server side andwe will discuss about such practices in following posts.

Download and example applications

Beginners could start by downloading restfulie’s client and server example application, ready to run in a eclipse wtp enviroment or pure eclipse installation.

Users are encouraged to use either the java or ruby mailing lists.

Since Restfulie was born in Ruby…

Since we released restfulie for ruby (on rails), which can be found at its github page, it was commented by Jim Webbers both on his blog and in person during QCon in San Francisco, where both him and Ian Robinson held a tutorial on restful systems and the web and will hold another round, more hands-on, at QCon London 2010.

Meanwhile, Restfulie was commented at ruby5’s podcast, commented here, at infoq, and in portuguese by Juliana and by Anderson Leite – a fellow Caelum developer.

As some comments were out about restfulie’s ruby implementation, restfulie: it’s more than easy.

Written by guilhermesilveira

November 25, 2009 at 11:13 am

missing_knowledge: dynamically adding ruby methods

with one comment

While creating restfulie we have come across a few issues related to my complete lack of mastery of the ruby meta programming features.

The client’s code (hypermedia aware resource consumer) is based on ruby’s open classes and objects idea: while parsing a xml (or json) format, one can easily add specific methods to that particular object, and that is no news for anyone using ruby, but the interesting bit is that one can do it in several ways, each one with a complete different result.

statically defining methods

The first thought is to define a method for that just deserialized object:

object = self.from_xml
def object.pay
  // execute payment request here
end

This is the easiest approach and works really well if you know which method you want to define. In our case, the name of that method only become available during runtime and it is contained within an string so I can not execute:

object = self.from_xml
method_name = "pay"
def object.method_name
  // execute payment request here
end

In order to dynamically add methods to objects, the simple “def variable_name.method_name … end” path does not sound as a viable alternative.

missing a method?

The second approach was to use the method missing approach. By iterating over the possible state changes/requests of a resource, one can define whether a new method exists or not:

# keeps track of all possible state
# changes and requests
attr_accessor :state_changes
def method_missing(m, *args, &block)
  if state_changes.keys.include? m
    # execute the related http request
  else
    super(m, args, block)
  end
end

Whenever one redefines method_missing, he has to redefine the respond_to? method:

attr_accessor :state_changes
def method_missing(m, *args, &block)
  if state_changes.keys.include? m
    # execute the related http request
  else
    super(m, args, block)
  end
end

def respond_to?(m)
  state_changes.keys.include?(m) || super.respond_to?(m)
end

This is a great (and possibly only) approach to define new methods unknown to the developer at compile time which name is a composition of important strings as with ActiveRecord finders.

The keyword here is new. That’s the reason why method_missings is not the right approach for apis like restfulie. While retrieving a resource from the web, one of its actions might be named destroy, in which case the original destroy method will be invoked, without ever passing through the method_missing once the method does exist.

Appart from that, it is important to notice that this approach is highly valuable for those frameworks which supply dynamic method names for their users as mentioned earlier as ActiveRecord: in those cases, an infinite number of methods is made available for developers.

dynamically defining a method

Become more and more hardcore in the way to define a method, the following step was to check the define_method method. It seems to fit as it would receive a string as the method name and add that method to the object’s class.

class << self
  define_method("pay") do |payment|
    # execute payment here
  end
end

There is one issue here: define_method receives a block as an argument, and blocks cannot receive blocks as arguments in ruby 1.8. It is fine in 1.9, but not in 1.8, so I can not do:

class << self
  define_method("pay") do |payment, &block|
    # execute payment here
  end
end

Another important characteristic of using blocks with the define method, is that it can not access its local context (outter variables), unless you one uses the send method to invoke define_method:

self.class.send :define_method, pay do |payment|
  # access external variables
  # but no body support
end

module eval

The last approach is based on method aliasing. One can evaluate a block of code in a module using the module_eval method:

self.module_eval do
  def fixed_name_method(*args, &block)
    # now i can access the args
    # and the block
    # but the method name was fixed!
  end
end

So we are left with only one task: rename that method from fixed_name to the content of the variable method_name:

method_name = "pay"
self.module_eval do
  def fixed_name_method(*args, &block)
    # now i can access the args
    # and the block
  end
  alias_method method_name, :fixed_name
  undef :fixed_name
end

Note that we also undefined the fixed_name method after creating our desired alias. This is a known path to dynamically add methods to classes bypassing ruby’s 1.8 limitation with blocks receiving blocks as arguments.

Everything would be wonderful just prior to using the api in a multithread enviroment. In this case all those method definitions were added to all existing objects of that class. In this case, the use of instance_eval is indicated.

current method name

At last we come to the last challenge for the client side: once all methods are defined in the same way (within a loop condition) where the evaluation process does not give us access to outter variables, how come we know which method was invoked?

Googling around, the following method can be created in order to discover which method is being invoked:

def current_method
  caller[0]=~/`(.*?)'/
  $1
end

the next step

This is the path we went while creating restfulie as I had no prior hardcore experience with ruby’s metaprogramming techniques. It is clear that using such api allows one to dynamically extend classes and objects in order to achieve that “one extra dimension” of generalization to our code.

Written by guilhermesilveira

November 9, 2009 at 1:00 pm

To break or not to break? Java 7?

with one comment

There is a short slide show to illustrate some thoughts. There will be better ones in the near future.

When is the right timing to break compatibility of a public api regarding its previous versions?

Well, in the open source communites there is a common sense that a library is allowed to cause some migration if there is a minor change (i.e. 1.1.5 to 1.2.0).

Whenever has a major change (i.e. 1.2.0 to 2.0.0) it might be completely rewritten in such a way that even allows its users to adopt both versions at the same time.

Some projects use the version number as a marketing technique in order to keep themselves up-to-date with their competitors.

Some products are famous for, whenever a new release appears, breaking compatibility with code written so far, requiring all programmers to rewrite part of their code. If you check Visual Basic’s life, every one-to-two years there was a major release with (usually) incompatibility.

VB programmers were used to that issue and kept coding the old projects using the previous release until the project was finished. Companies just got used to it and learned how to live on.

If your code is well tested through the use of automated tests, updating a library or a compiler/language version is an easier task because all incompatibility issues will be found prior to packing a new release of your product to your clients. testing++!

If you do not write code for your tests, as soon as you update a library/compiler/language, well….. have fun as it will probably be an unique adventure.

The java developers

Unfortunately, there is still a big part of the java community who do not write automated tests. Aside with the java legacy code that exists lacking any lines of automated tests in the world, sticking to compatibility between java releases can be seen as a good thing for the world, in general.

But for those who already write their tests, all that care with compatibility might be seen as a overestimated issue: due to the tests, we are ready to change and embrance those changes.

The java 7 crew is aware that there is a lot more that we can add to the language, but afraid because it will not preserve high levels of compatibility and usability.

What happens if the language has to worry so much about compatibility? It will evolve so slow that other languages have the chance to overcome it. This is the danger that the language itself faces. Java might not lose its position but one can find a lot more people arguing about language changes that could be done to the language – but are not… because preserving compatibility has been a main issue.

At the same time, some of the changes proposed might create huge incompatibility issues for those users who still do not write tests or that software who was not written using TDD practices. There is also another document on the same issue on the internet.

This proposes that methods defining a void return type should be considered as returning this. This way one can easily use it with Builder-patterned apis:


final JFrame jFrame = new JFrame()
.setBounds(100, 100, 100, 100)
.setVisible(true);

There are a few issues with that proposal that do not match the “let’s keep it backwards compatible” saying.

The first thing is that, nowadays, builder (or construction pattern) apis are already created returning something specific instead of void, as we can see from Hibernate‘s API, and the new date and time api.

The second point is that builders are used nowadays to create Domain Specific Languages and their implementation in Java do not use a single object because it would create a huge (and nasty) class. DSL’s are usually built in Java by using different types, i.e. the criteria API from Hibernate.

Even the given example is actually no builder api… JFrame configuration methods and real-time-usage methods are all within… itself! There is no JFrameBuilder which would build a JFrame, i.e.:


Builder b = new Builder();
b.setTitle("Title").addButtonPanel().add(cancelButton()).add(okButton());
JFrame frame = b.build();

Notice that in the simple example above, it would be a good idea to have two different types (Builder and PanelBuilder) thus the language modification do not achieve what we want our code to look like (or be used like). Instead, it will only allow us to remove the variable name from appearing 10 times in our code, making it easier for programmers to write lines of code like this:


// ugly line which has too much information at once
JFrame frame = new JFrame().setA("a").setB(2,3).setC("c").setD("d").andOn().andOn().andOn();

But why does it go against Java’s saying ‘we should not break compatibility’? Because it creates a even higher degree of coupling between my code and the api i am using.

Well, imagine that I used the swing api as mentioned above. In a future release of Swing, some of those methods might have their signature changed and therefore break my existing code. Why would an api change their method return type? Well, because if the return type was defined as void so far, no one was using it… so I can change it.

It creates the same type of coupling found while using class-inheritance in Java while using APIs. Parent methods being invoked might change their signature

Well, it was true until today. If this functionality is approved for the Java API, it will make a simple task of changing a “void” return type to something useful a hard task, where I have to think about those who have tightly-coupled their code to mine.

The questions and answers which come to my mind are…
a) is the existing Java codebase around the world usually automated tested? unfortunately, no
b) does Java want to be backward compatible? this change will not help it
c) does it want to help the creation of dsls? this change is not the solution
d) does Java want us to avoid writing the variable name multiple times? my IDE already helps me with that

Written by guilhermesilveira

August 17, 2009 at 1:24 pm