RESTful Web Services vs. "Big" Web Services: Making the Right Architectural Decision

Cesare Pautasso, Olaf Zimmermann, Frank Leymann


Recent technology trends in the Web Services (WS) domain indicate that a solution eliminating the presumed complexity of the WS-* standards may be in sight: advocates of REpresentational State Transfer (REST) have come to believe that their ideas explaining why the World Wide Web works are just as applicable to solve enterprise application integration problems and to simplify the plumbing required to build service-oriented architectures. In this paper we objectify the WS-* vs. REST debate by giving a quantitative technical comparison based on architectural principles and decisions. We show that the two approaches differ in the number of architectural decisions that must be made and in the number of available alternatives. This discrepancy between freedom-from-choice and freedom-of-choice explains the complexity difference perceived. However, we also show that there are significant differences in the consequences of certain decisions in terms of resulting development and maintenance costs. Our comparison helps technical decision makers to assess the two integration styles and technologies more objectively and select the one that best fits their needs: REST is well suited for basic, ad hoc integration scenarios, WS-* is more flexible and addresses advanced quality of service requirements commonly occurring in enterprise computing.


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