Where REST may not always be a good fit

REST may not be the best choice for long-lived operations or for data in the 'afterlife.'
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

"For all its goodness, REST sometimes feels like trying to fit a square peg in the proverbial round hole. Some interaction patterns just don’t lend themselves well to the REST approach.... With WS-*, on the other hand, we get a square peg to fit in a square hole. The problem there is that the peg is twice as wide as the hole."

- William Vambenepe

In a new post, Oracle's William Vambenepe, a REST proponent, says there are some situations where the REST protocol may not always be a good fit. Here's a few of his observations on some "round holes":

  • Long-lived operations. "You can’t just hang on for a synchronous response."
  • Query: "I’ve seen proposals that create a 'query' resource and build it up incrementally by POSTing constraints to it. Very RESTful. Very impractical too."
  • Events: "You quickly end up worrying a lot more about firewalls and the cost of keeping HTTP connections open than about RESTful purity."
  • The afterlife: "How do you retrieve data about a resource once it’s gone? Which is what a DELETE does to it."

There's been an ongoing debate for years between proponents within the WS-*/SOAP and REST worlds. The bottom line is that each has a role to play as systems and infrastructures are stood up and built out in a service-oriented way.

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