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Lots of buzz came out of Mix 07 about Silverlight which was undoubtedly the star of the show but one of the other announcements caught the attention of my colleague Big Al on an experimental web data service technology grandly codenamed "Astoria".
 
Now I am a fan of WS-I Web Services, I think that any technology that can gain that kind of ubiquitous acceptance across the whole industry, including all the major players is some achievement, however I can understand the argument that accuses the WS-I standards of turning into bloatware, I would agree they are complex.
 
With the emergence of technologies such as WCF (Windows Communication Foundation) that abstract the developer away from much of the complexity of the WS-I standards. But is this a solution? So now we can see where the lines of battle are drawn.
 
Dr Roy Fielding who was one of the principle designers of the HTTP specification and a small legion of followers, which humorously call themselves RESTafarian believe in a far simpler way of providing data services that uses URI and HTTP to a much greater extent. This data services principle is called REST or Representational State Transfer.
 
In essence (and I’m no authority so please correct me if I’m wrong) REST uses the URI to build up the question you want to ask of your data basically building the URL using a set of nouns., for example,
 
HTTP://www.MyExample.com/CustomerX/Orders - if you wanted to see all the orders for a specific customer in this case CustomerX
 
HTTP://www.MyExample.com/CustomerX/NewOrders - if you wanted to see all the new orders for CustomerX
 
Once done use the basic HTTP commands of PUT, GET, POST and DELETE in a CRUD (Create, Read, Update & Delete) style of operation.
 
The advantages are pretty clear, it’s simple, makes greater use web technologies and ofcourse makes cache scenarios pretty easy so in theory this should rock!
 
So that’s the very basics and I’m sure some RESTafarian is going to tell me I’ve missed something!
 
Astoria is intended as the data services provider technology for  Silverlight. It is REST in style if you hadn’t guessed already.
Microsoft is showing us Astoria very early in its life cycle which is a departure for them but it is clear that the reason why is because the rest of the development for Astoria will heavily rely on user feedback.
 
Astoria comes in the form of a toolkit that fully integrates into Visual Studio which is a necessity for the adoption of this technology with many developers and web-designers. If it’s not easy to use I can’t see it enjoying a great deal of adoption.
 
So is Astoria aimed at a replacement for WS-I web service or to complete against? In my mind no, I think it is an additional option, I’m not bold enough to say it’s the future of web services and I think it would be foolhardy to say so. Microsoft is obviously keeping their options open, this doesn’t mean they aren’t 100% committed to web services and the WS-I, what it does say is that they are experimenting. However this is the chance for the REST movement to raise their profile by helping Microsoft develop this technology.
 
Well Eileen spoke recently about Web 3.0 technologies. Well Silverlight is aiming for that space and I see no reason why Astoria shouldn’t join it.
 
Last thought I have is … what would you call it when it eventually goes 1.0? Here’s my stab, Light-Connect. 
Posted on Monday, May 7, 2007 9:43 AM Main | Back to top


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