The ubiquity of the internet ushered in a new era of connectivity extending beyond traditional computers and smart phones. The convergence of a networked society, software systems, and embedded devices has forged a connected… Everything! What is referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) technology trend has grown to be more powerful and all-encompassing than anyone could have imagined, expanding to become the internet of everything, where devices and software systems can openly and seamlessly communicate with each other.
The network connectivity between everyday devices and software can range anywhere from a smart phone, to home gadgets, to mechanical sensors, to vehicles, consumer and business software systems, or even a building or infrastructure. The IoT universe provides endless possibilities for consumers as well as for companies. Yet, taking advantage of this movement requires a comprehension of the web services that propel it. Businesses looking to capitalize on this trend must look to expert developers to properly implement and program Application Program Interfaces (APIs) with the appropriate web service access protocols to not compromise performance, security or data integrity.
For a long time, SOAP was the dominant messaging protocol used. It is seen as a more standardized and mature protocol with the benefit of being platform independent by its exclusive use of XML to transmit messages. However, the XML used in SOAP can become complex and more difficult to program as it tends to be verbose with the XML messaging structure containing an envelope, header, body and fault elements. SOAP is extremely intolerant of errors but fault messages are returned to the client revealing error origination and status data. The error handling is one of SOAP's best features as well as its built-in stateful operations to support conversational state management and WSDL (Web Services Definition Language) for increased security and transactional reliability.
REST, which is more of an architectural style than a protocol, is much newer and has supplanted SOAP as the standard by excelling in what SOAP lacks. RESTful APIs using JSON data-interchanges are known to be simpler, more efficient and better for supporting client-server communications. Yet, at times this may be seen as too simplified as there are no defined standards set for REST web services interface.
Overall, each of these web service protocols has specific advantages and disadvantages, and the preference of one over the other depends on the requirements and purpose of the application. SOAP is poised for use in business applications as it is suited for distributed enterprise environments. This is due to its well-defined specifications, language / platform / transport independence, plus greater reliability and security when dealing with complex data. RESTful APIs are better utilized for internet of things, particularly mobile applications and embedded devices. This is a result of its direct point-to-point communication of lightweight data formats and flexibility.
Even with the obvious pros and cons of each, settling on a definitive protocol should be left to experts. They will examine the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and define the methods that will result in in the best workflows, scalability and reliability for businesses and their clients.
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