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Minimize coupling with REST processes

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While integrating systems, implementing access or processes is typically achieved through man ordered list of steps, where one expects specific results from the server.

Expecting specific results means coupling your client to a servers behavior, something that we want to minimize.

In REST clients, and in business process modeled following REST practices, we can reach lesser decoupling factors. Imagine the following system (among others) that buys products at amazon.com:


When there is a required item
And there is a basket
But didnt desire anything
Then desire this item as first item

When there is a required item
And there is a basket
Then desire this item

When it is a basket
And there are still products to buy
Then start again

When there is a payment
Then release payment information

The above code works and can be seen running in the last video from this post. In this Rest modelled process, several types of evolutions can happen on the server, without breaking the client:

1. After adding a product to the basket, if the server renders recommendations instead of your basket, the client still achieve its goal.

2. If some products are not found, the client is still able to pay for it.

3. If the server does not have the products, but links to another system in a affiliated program, we as clients will never notice it, and buy the products.

4. If we want to achieve the same goal in other systems that understand the same media type that we do, simply change the entry point..

Note the benefits from backward compatibility, forward compatibility and we are still capable to achieve our goals without knowing the existence of some changes on the protocol. We can even compare prices without changing one line of code, everything using well known media types as Atom. RDFa support can also be implemented.

This evolution power is not achieved in traditional process modelling, and several times, compatibility is left aside. This is something that REST and hypermedia brought us.

Mapping our process in a adaptable way using hypermedia was described in an article recently for the WWW2010 proceedings.

Now let’s imagine the traditional modelling:

  1. Search
  2. Add
  3. Search
  4. Add
  5. Pay

In a typical web services + business processing scenario, how would a server notify me to access another system without changing one line of code in my client? It would break compatibility.

If the server now supports a limited quantity of items in your basket, your client will also break, while the adaptable REST client adapts itself and buys what it is capable of.

If our produt or company uses those traditional paths and every change on the service implies in heavy change costs for clients, thats a hint that your project is too much coupled, and a REST client as mentioned might help.

Tradicional web services decouple a little bit more than traditional RPC, but still provide this amount of coupling that cost our companies more than they were expecting to pay.

The following presentation 6 minutes presentation shows how to avoid some of this coupling from your server.

The entire video cast on the 3rd part from Rest from scratch is here:

This code achieves its results using Restfulie 0.8.0, with many thanks to everyone who contributed maturing this release: Caue Guerra, Luis Cipriani, Éverton Ribeiro, George GuimarĂ£es, Paulo Ahagon, Fabio Akita, Fernando Meyer and others.

Thanks to all feedback from Mike Amundsen, Jim Webber and Ian Robinson.

Is your client api code already adapting itself to changes?

(update: changed some of the “Then” clauses from the dsl for easier spotting of document messages instead of commands)

Written by guilhermesilveira

May 27, 2010 at 4:40 pm