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The REST of the SOA story

While service-oriented architecture is often associated with the SOAP protocol, REST may offer a simpler, more elegant solution.

Representational State Transfer (REST) has been gaining steam over the past two years. While it's nothing new under the sun -- in fact it's now seven years old -- the simple, HTTP-based programming style has potential that is just being tapped.

It's also helping to better define service-oriented architecture. Far too many think of SOA as being synonymous with the SOAP messaging protocol. While SOAP, along with WSDL and UDDI, was the standard in vogue five years ago when SOA began to enter the mass consciousness, it is not the basis for SOA. SOAP is one way to build a Web service, it is not the only way to do it.

REST is a perfectly viable alternative. Last week Burton Group made the argument that REST will become the dominant method for building Web services by the end of the decade. In an interview with, IBM WebSphere CTO Jerry Cuomo revealed that he sees big potential in REST as well.

It could be just the wake up call that those stuck in the SOA-SOAP paradigm need. SOA isn't a programming initiative and it never was. It's an architectural approach. Done right, SOA should enable you to make right-fit programming decisions, to pursue good new ideas in the programming arena without having to fear that it's going to be wholly incompatible with what you've previously built.

SOA should deliver agility. It should future-proof your applications. There's always going to be hot new acronym that may, or may not, matter to you. You need to assess those things for yourself. For instance, last week we ran a Q&A with ZapThink's Jason Bloomberg in which he raised serious questions about SCA and JBI.

While SOA is an acronym, that doesn't mean it's got a one-to-one equivalence with all other acronyms. Understanding the difference between architecture and programming is critical. Your programming preferences will change, but at no point does that absolve you from having to pay attention to your architecture. More than anything that's what the increased focus on REST makes clear, that a good architecture better enables you to incorporate change.

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