Who said WS-Transfer is for REST?

One more post on the “REST over SOAP” topic, recently revived by the birth of the W3C WS Resource Access working group. Then I’ll go quiet for a bit and let people actually working on it show me why I am wrong to worry about WS-RT.

Before that, I just want to clarify one thing. People seem to assume that WS-Transfer was created as a way to support the creation of RESTful systems that communicate over SOAP. As much as I can tell, this is simply not true.

I never worked for Microsoft and I was not in the room when WS-Transfer was created. But I know what WS-Transfer was created to support: chiefly, it was WS-Management and the Devices Profile for Web Services, neither of which claims to have anything to do with REST. It’s just that they both happen to deal with resources (that word again!) that have properties and they want to access (mostly retrieve, really) the values of these properties. But in both cases, these resources have a lot more than just state. You can call all sorts of type-specific operations on them. No uniform interface. It’s not REST and it’s not trying to be REST. The Devices Profile also happens to make heavy use of WS-Discovery and I am pretty sure that UDP broadcasts aren’t a recommend Web-scale design pattern. And no “hypermedia” in sight in either spec either.

A specification is not RESTful. An application system is. And most application systems that use WS-Transfer don’t even try to be RESTful. Mocking WS-Transfer for not being as good as HTTP to support REST systems is like mocking an airplane for not being as good as your hatchback for grocery shopping. It’s true, but who cares.

So let’s not reflexively attack WS-Transfer for assumed purposes. And similarly, let’s not reflexively defend WS-Transfer as a good way to build RESTful systems.

Just to clarify, this is not meant as a defense of WS-Transfer. I think that, at least in the context of its original purpose, it should be gutted to only its GET operation. The PUT and DELETE tasks should be handled by domain-specific operations. Which would have the consequence of making it look less like a REST wannabe. But my recommendation aims at improving its applicability to the management domain, not at making it comply to an architecture style that is not (at least currently) used in that domain.


Filed under Everything, IT Systems Mgmt, Manageability, Mgmt integration, REST, SOAP, Specs, WS-Transfer

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