REST Workflow paper

Stefan found a paper with a very interesting title, that I hadn’t heard anything about; Developing Web Services Choreography Standards – The Case of REST vs. SOAP.

I’d heard Keith Swenson’s name a few days earlier in the context of ASAP and some of the recent buzz surrounding it, but I’ve known about his work for a while. I spent some time studying both SWAP (co-authored with a buddy of mine, Greg Bolcer) and IPP during their development.

Aside; IPP actually slowed my studies into the Web (along with HTTP-NG, sigh) because I, for whatever reason, started by assuming that IPP was a good use of HTTP. Only later did I realize that the exact opposite was true (as was only recently confirmed by Roy).

On the upside, IPP’s use of POST spawned an important and interesting exchange, via Internet draft, that I studied very carefully (which lead to a draft of my own); Don’t go Postal, and The Use of POST.

Anyhow, all of this to say that I was quite surprised to see REST reasonably well represented … except for perhaps this part;

Several standards for REST style workflow interaction have been proposed, namely SWAP, Wf-XML [26, 52, 58], AWSP [49] and ASAP [38]. Instead of relying on the HTTP 1.0 commands, these standards provide higher level operations that are specifically designed for the interaction with remote processes.

Hint; if you’re trying to provide operations at a higher level than the application layer (e.g. HTTP), you’re abusing HTTP, not using it. But, the operations being tunneled are themselves reasonably generic, which is good design practice for this space, and what I think the authors were trying to point out as nearly RESTful.

It’s really encouraging to see REST mentioned in the context of workflow, since I believe it provides a superior base for scalable solutions than does SOA. I think this paper could be an important piece of work if the authors were to spend some time studying both architectural styles from a software architecture POV, as well as actually building some systems with each. As is, the analysis is pretty decent, but the conclusion – basically that it’s a crap shoot over which one is superior – needs some major work.

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