Astoria… I learned something today…

Actually yesterday, but today was the first time I'd had a chance to write about it.

Having done quite a bit with what's now being called "traditional web services", my first impression of REST were, I'll have to admit, the thought that it was web services without schema. I kinda like my metadata; it's always been irritating that stored procedures do not store ANY metadata on the number or shapes of the rowsets returned, only metadata on the parameters are stored. The closest that ANSI comes is allowing specification of the number of rowsets, a piece of the standard the SQL Server doesn't implement. So web services without schema seemed less useful than web services with.

But one of the up-and-coming data access technologies at Microsoft is Astoria, which is described as "a REST-ful set of interfaces to relational database (and other) data". It's causing a lot of excitement.

After the conference I mentioned this to an old friend, Jon Flanders, as he was wearing his "real programmers care about URIs" (or something close) teeshirt. Asked him to explain the zen of REST. To summarize, I got the impression it was all about the location specification and using HTTP verbs like GET/POST/DELETE to effect "state transfer" operations. And, although its not very common, metadata can be specified using WADL (Web Application Description Language). So specifying the location is perhaps like a "connection string" to the service? And to the data the application interacts with?

I'm still a bit skeptical of the (seeming) typelessness and contract-lessness of it all, the "HTTP is the only protocol"-ishness, and IIRC, I can find out the location of a traditional web service using WSDL's soap:address element's "location" attribute in the service portion. But at least I have an somewhat of an understanding of what all the buzz is about.

More on Astoria in future posts.

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