REST vs. SOAP: Which is Better for Web Services?

Ask two developers whether SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) or REST (Representational State Transfer) is better for accessing web services and you’ll likely get two different answers – and maybe more. It’s a passionate debate, but the reality is that the best solution depends on the application. Let’s take a look at these two options and discuss the main pros and cons.


SOAP Web Services

SOAP is a lightweight protocol for exchanging information in a decentralized, distributed environment. SOAP consists of multiple parts and utilizes different transport protocols, such as HTTP and SMTP:

  • An envelope that defines a framework, detailing what is in a message, and how to process it.
  • A set of encoding rules for communicating instances of application-defined datatypes.
  • A convention for representing remote procedure calls and responses.

SOAP requires less code (transactions, security, coordination, addressing, etc.) than REST. Most real-world applications support complex operations, which require that the conversational state and contextual information be maintained. With SOAP, developers do not need to write code into the application layer. Once SOAP is in place, the next step is to utilize a SOAP monitoring solution to verify the processes are properly working.


RESTful Web Services

REST is an architectural style of transferring data via XML using HTTP messages, such as GET or POST. RESTful API’s are popular, due to their flexibility and are used in websites, mobile applications, gaming, and more. However, REST-based API’s do not have a well-defined security protocol, but depending on the application, that could be a non-issue.

A client can access the resource using the unique URI (Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) and a representation of the resource is returned. While accessing RESTful resources with HTTP, the URL of the resource serves as the resource identifier.


Monitoring RESTful and SOAP Web Services

Multiple factors need to be considered when choosing between REST and SOAP. But in general, if you’re publishing a complex API to the outside world, SOAP will be more useful. When the transaction is less complex, such as a CRUD operation, and has a lower learning curve, REST is appropriate.  Once the choice has been made for your web services, monitoring becomes part of the equation.

A SOAP monitoring solution verifies that your web services are available and contain proper content. Additionally, the monitoring agents can replicate one or more end user requests and monitor web services for availability and proper content. Dotcom-Monitor also monitors REST web services. Sign up for a SOAP or REST monitoring free trial and begin monitoring your web services today or sign up for a demo to see the Dotcom-Monitor solution in action.

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