RESTful API Basics

            As we start our learning for our final project in our class, we have started to learn about and work with RESTful API architecture style (REST API), so I have started some research and done further learning myself. I found a great article from by Margaret Rouse with an wide view of the application program interface, called RESTful API. She breaks down what it is, how it works, its uses, its constraints, challenges, and some background information. REST uses the HTTP requests of GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE for data use and access. This API is based on representational state transfer, which is what the acronym stands for. It works by, “[Breaking] down a transaction to create a series of small modules. Each module addresses an underlying part of the transaction.” Commands are used to obtain resources, and resource’s states is called a resource representation. As previously mentioned, the commands are: GET to retrieve a resource, PUT to modify/updated a resource, POST to create a resource, and DELETE to remove a resource. The idea is for users to access networked components with stateless calls, no information being retained by the REST services. This statelessness makes REST “useful in cloud applications.” They are scalable and can be “redeployed if something fails.” It is very useful for efficient internet usage and is very compatible for distributed environments, and is used by the likes of Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter. With cloud and microservices growing in popularity and usage, REST is sure to grow alongside. REST adheres strictly to 6 key concepts. There must be a uniform interface under a single URL. It must be client-server based, dividing request-gathering concerns on the client and data access, workload management, and security on the server. There must be stateless operations, as mentioned previously. Any state information must be managed on the client. Caching is essential for resources unless “explicitly indicated that caching is not possible. It must be a layered system, like a hierarchy to the architecture. There must be code on demand, meaning that “a server will send back static representations of resources,” or “when necessary, servers can send executable code to the client.” Sticking to these requirements can be difficult, which presents the challenges of endpoint consistency, response time and data size, defining paths and locations, security, authentication, request scope, testing, and error handling. Since REST is useful for the aforementioned reasons, this is worthwhile and understandable though. I expect to use this information in my final project, which should be dealing in a REST API, so this will be very useful to me in the near future. It is very interesting and exciting, and is growing to the top of the computer science world.


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