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I've been thinking for a while about the way in which resource based architectures and messaging based architectures interact with each other. Resource based architectures have increased in popularity a lot over recent years and I have read a number of articles in the community but I've always felt there was a gap and lack of discussion and guidance over the integration between resource based architectures and message based architectures. I have had a couple of chats with colleagues who's opinion I value very highly and they felt the same about this subject as I do so I thought I'd write this article and see where we end up at the end of my brain bump on this subject and hopefully prompt some discussion on this subject.

 

So let's start with the typical example of a RESTful service. In most of the examples you see in articles we have an application that contains some resources and then a REST API is developed to provide access to these resources using all of the common techniques used when putting together a REST API. At this point I am completely happy. REST is a great way to provide an API for your applications resources. "REST is good for producing an interoperable API".

 

If you're developing applications in a client/server style architecture where you may have a website which calls this REST API then you probably never need to worry anymore about this problem, however where I start to struggle with things is in the real world of integration. When we start to develop real solutions which are more than just a website calling my API and we have things like aggregated services or complex business processes or the many other integration scenarios to think about. Let's take the example of a service which wants to aggregate two or more services together in a publish/subscribe style pattern. In the below diagram I've shown how you have two backend services exposing REST API's and a client who wants to make a call with a RESTful GET.

 

 

 

There are a few conceptual challenges here, firstly when you are talking about resources, the resource that the customer is thinking about isn't necessarily the same as the resources that each partner is thinking about. The message broker could be aggregating the two partners resources and producing some new kind of resource. Other challenges may include the addressability of the resource. Would the address send by the client make sense when it was sent to the partners. Probably not!

In the above example it could be possible to write custom code to deliver this aggregator service but what about a more complex problem? Take the diagram below.

 

 

 

In this example we have a more complex example where there are multiple customers and more partners. Now like in most real world scenarios you have more than one protocol going on. Now you're moving away from custom code, it would be a good to consider some of the common messaging solutions such as BizTalk, NServiceBus, RabbitMQ, or the many other vendors who are available.

The key thing when you start working with an integration broker is that they work based on a message based architecture and a key underlying principle of that is a message which is self-describing. A message based architecture has the benefit that because everything is contained within the message it should be possible to route then transform the message and send it over any protocol. Hopefully this begins to show how important the translation from a REST à Messaging and Messaging à REST can be.

 

In the new version of BizTalk 2013 they have introduced a new REST adapter and the BizTalk product team have attempted to address this challenge about how to convert things like a URI with the GET verb to a message which can then be self-describing and used in a messaging system. The REST adapters then let you connect applications to your integration broker and provide whatever mapping and routing your scenario may need.

 

In summary I think I'm saying the following:

  • REST is an easy to use and interoperable way to develop application interfaces
  • There is a difference between an application interface and Enterprise Application Integration
  • Messaging systems use messaging architectures and are used to develop real world EAI and ESB solutions
  • BizTalk has some cool new REST adapters which let you convert between these architecture styles
  • We should be able to build even more powerful integration solutions than we have in previous versions

 

As I mentioned at the start of the article, I haven't seen much discussion in the community about this translation from Resource-based to Message-based approaches. If you know of any good articles or have any opinions around good practices or techniques in this area I'd be very interested to read them.

 

As a side note if anyone is interested in practical examples of using the BizTalk REST adapter check the below articles from fellow Integration MVP's Richard Seroter and Steef-Jan Wiggers:

Posted on Saturday, May 11, 2013 4:35 PM BizTalk | Back to top


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