December 23rd, 2013

Thanks to All Who’ve Been Good This Year

Layer 7 Holiday Promo 2013The year 2013 has been one heck of an adventure for me. My work with Layer 7, CA Technologies and the API Academy team (yes, we have many names!) has taken me around the world, allowed me to speak at several amazing conferences and provided the chance to interact with some remarkable organizations working on APIs for the Web and enterprise. Along the way, I’ve met many incredibly smart and generous people.

In the last year, I’ve worked with organizations striving to reinvent the role of the enterprise architect from a controlling force to an enabler – a person who ensures the development environment is a safe place to be creative; a person who provides help to product groups and development teams via research and guidance taken from a wide range of sources; someone who works to empower teams and cut down on unneeded ceremony and red tape. These are good people and they’ve been a pleasure to work with and learn from along the way.

I’ve also met many conference organizers and community leaders doing essentially the same thing from a different angle. Along the way, I’ve met people who are devoting huge chunks of time, effort and resources to creating events that improve communication, facilitate collaboration and foster success across a range of communities. It’s been really amazing to be a part of these events and to meet so many giving and open people working toward a common goal.

My experience online has been equally enlightening. In the last year, I’ve “met” many new and interesting people, discovered several helpful efforts and organizations. I am lucky that I can learn something new every day online from those I’d likely never meet in person, simply because we are physically far apart.

One experience in particular has marked 2013 for me. I had the honor to work closely with Leonard Richardson on a book project – RESTful Web APIs. It was Leonard’s idea to create the book and I was happy he invited me to help shape the message and content. I’ve learned a great deal from him and I can see the results of that work in online comments and reviews. I am pleased to be associated with Leonard’s talent and vision.

There’s a common thread through all these experiences: I’ve had the luck and privilege of meeting many “good” people this year. This blog post is my way to give a blanket shout out to everyone who challenged me, taught me, invited me, supported me and hosted me in so many ways in the last year. Thanks!

As another small way of saying thanks, we’re offering several free copies of the RESTful Web APIs book to some of those who’ve been “good” this year. All you need to do is add yourself to our “nice list” (go ahead, you know you deserve it). We’ll be giving away a couple dozen copies of the book soon after the holidays.

So, again, thanks to all for your help and support in 2013. And look out for us in 2014 – things are just getting started!

November 13th, 2013

QCon San Francisco 2013

QCon 2013This Thursday, I’ll be at QCon San Francisco to lead the RESTful Web APIs tutorial. This will be the second time QCon has hosted the full-day workshop and I’m very much looking forward to it. Most of the material I’ve prepared for this workshop is based on the book of the same name by Leonard Richardson and myself. That book was released in September of this year and we’ve been getting very positive feedback on it.

Participants in the workshop will learn how to design a hypermedia type, how to implement servers that safely and consistently expose business functionality using hypermedia and how to build client applications that understand the hypermedia messages and can interact with servers to create enjoyable user experiences.

Along the way several key principles will be explored, including:

  • Why a hypermedia-based message model is better than a code-based object model
  • How Web servers can expose operations as stateless resources instead of as function calls
  • How client applications can recognize and use hypermedia workflow to create quality user experiences
  • Why the hypermedia approach makes it easier to make small changes on the server without breaking existing client applications

The full-day session will also cover important technical aspects of implementing distributed applications over the Web. We will focus on identifying and managing the boundaries between services in order to increase both security and stability over the lifetime of the service. Attendees will get a chance to use existing services as a guide when creating their own and will even get a chance to introduce changes on the backend to see how their client applications can adapt and continue to function.

I always enjoy these extended workshops because it gives everyone (even myself) a chance to write real-life code for real-life services. I spend quite a bit of my time lecturing and advocating for increased reliance on adaptable distributed systems and it’s a rewarding experience. However, it’s also very energizing to work with people in a hands-on atmosphere where everyone is focused on getting things up and running in a working environment.

Of course, there will be lots of fun in the day, too. We have trivia breaks, I offer some handy prizes and we have plenty of time to relax and get to know each other. Overall, these full-day, hands-on workshops represent one of my favorite ways to spend a day with smart, talented people. And I’m grateful to the folks at QCon who make it all possible.

So, if you’re in San Francisco this Thursday and don’t have anything pressing to do, come on over to QCon and join us. Bring your laptop loaded with your favorite Web coding tools and your thinking cap. We’ve got a place all ready for you.

August 9th, 2013

REST Fest 2013 is Coming!

REST Fest 2013It’s that time of year again! REST Fest 2013 is less than two months away (September 19-21) and preparations and are in full swing. Now in its fourth year, REST Fest has become one of my favorite events on the calendar and I’m very much looking forward to being involved with this year’s event.

REST is Just the Beginning
This year the keynote will be delivered by Brian Sletten. And – judging from the title (and my knowledge of Brian’s experience and knowledge) – it will be a great talk. We’re honored that Brian accepted our invitation and looking forward not just to his presentation but also the resulting converstations and explorations that are hallmarks of REST Fest.

Everybody Talks
An important part of REST Fest is the principle that everyone who shows up must give a presentation. The talks are typically quite short: a five-minute “lightning” talk followed by a short Q&A session. There are a few 30-minute  “featured talks”, too. But the basic idea is that we all get to talk about things that are interesting to us and we don’t have to make a big deal about it.

Every year, I probably learn more than 30 new ideas and novel approaches to problem solving and get to talk to the people who are coming up with these great things. REST Fest is a fantastic boost to my creative spirit!

Everybody Listens
The corollary to our key “talk” principle is that we all get to listen, too. And listening is, in my opinion, even more important than speaking. REST Fest attendees come from all sorts of backgrounds, experiences and points of view. The chance to hear how others view the Web space, how others are tackling problems and how others are advancing the practice of services on the Web is always an eye opener.

Less Theory, More Practice
And that leads to another key aspect of the weekend. The focus is on doing, not theorizing. We’re a decidely non-pedantic bunch and are usually much more interested in cool solutions than compelling theories. While it may still be common to think of anything with the REST acronym in the name to be a meeting of pointy-headed geeks, that’s not us. Each year, I get to see actual code solving actual problems in the real world.

We Hack, Too
Every year, we also host a hack day where everyone gets together to work on cool REST-related Web stuff. This year, Erik Mogensen will be leading the day. From what I’ve seen, he’s got some cool ideas in store for us, too.

It’s Easy to Join Us
Just as we cut down on the ceremony surrounding speaking and participating in a conference, we also try to eliminate the ceremony around signing up and showing up for REST Fest. It’s quite easy:

  1. Join our mailing list to see what we’re all about
  2. Drop into the IRC channel to chat us up
  3. Hop onto the GitHub wiki and create your “people page”
  4. Head over to the registration page and reserve your seat for the event

There’s no waiting to see if your talk was accepted; no wondering if what you’re working on would be interesting to some review committee. Just sign up, post your ideas and head down to sunny Greenville, SC for a great weekend.

Need More REST Fest NOW?
Can’t wait for RESTFEst 2013 to get started? Take a look at our Vimeo channel with all the talks from previous years. There’s lots of very cool stuff there.

See you in September!

(Originally published on my personal blog.)

December 20th, 2012

Top 5 Layer 7 Blog Posts from 2012

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Top 5 Layer 7 Blog Posts of 2012To follow up on our Top 5 Resources post from last week, here’s a look at the five most popular, most thought-provoking or just-plain-best posts from the Layer 7 blog in 2012. Mainly though, these are just personal favorites and I should note that they’re arranged chronologically (oldest first), not in order or preference.

The Oracle-Versus-Google Verdict Comes Down
June saw a remarkable amount of media coverage focusing on the world of APIs, as the Oracle/Google court case made headlines. Layer 7’s Jaime Ryan was relieved that the ruling stated APIs are not protected by copyright. Jaime said: “By taking a strong stand on the issue… the judge has possibly prevented a whole new round of lawsuits that could have rivaled the still-ongoing Apple/Samsung/Google patent wars.”
Read the full post >>>

Are Open APIs Too Open for Big Business?
In July, Ronnie Mitra took a detailed look at how nervous major social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook were becoming about their open APIs and concluded that “enterprises will need to adapt or risk being unable to reach their customers as the device revolution continues at its explosive pace… Organizations need to think carefully and plan their API strategies in order to find the perfect balance between control and accessibility.”
Read the full post >>>

Why I Still Like OAuth
In the midst the controversy surrounding July’s formalization of OAuth 2.0, Scott Morrison launched a passionate, though qualified, defense of the standard. Scott argued that “sometimes you just have to declare a reasonable victory and deal with the consequences later. OAuth isn’t perfect, nor is it easy. But it’s needed and it’s needed now, so let’s all forget the personality politics and just get it done.”
Read the full post >>>

History Repeats: The Search for Agility & Reuse Through APIs
This September, Dimitri Sirota visited the SDP Global Summit in Rome and noticed how much of the discussion around telecom carriers’ API initiatives echoed the SOA talk of a decade ago. He noted “telco after telco (echoed) the decade-old SOA mantra of abstraction, agility and reuse when talking about their new API initiatives… But if Web APIs are to deliver on the SOA vision of agility and reuse, they will need some of the same plumbing that made Web services work.”
Read the full post >>>

RESTful or Not?
Also in September, Mike Amundsen provided an explanation of the key term “RESTful”, which is so often used in reference to APIs and Web services. Mike explained: “Essentially, REST… is a style. Specifically, it’s a style of network-based software architecture. This style was first defined in 2000 by Roy Fielding. Fielding stated that ‘an architectural style is a coordinated set of architectural constraints that has been given a name for ease of reference’.”
Read the full post >>>

September 12th, 2012

RESTful or Not?

As the leader of Layer 7’s North American API Architecture & Design Practice, I often get asked to review Web solutions. Rarely do people ask me if the implementation is appropriate for the intended use. Instead they want to know if the work fits a label invented over a decade ago by a PhD candidate in his dissertation. They want to know if what they’ve come up with is “RESTful”.

Essentially, REST (representational state transfer) is a style. Specifically, it’s a style of network-based software architecture. This style was first defined in 2000 by Roy Fielding. Fielding stated that “an architectural style is a coordinated set of architectural constraints that has been given a name for ease of reference”.

The set of architectural constraints Fielding defined in his dissertation remain the key criteria by which we judge whether or not a service is RESTful. Back in 2000, Fielding did a very good job of defining the six primary constraints: client-server; stateless; cache; uniform interface; layered system; code-on-demand.

However, REST is also defined by four “interface constraints” that are only partially defined in the dissertation: identification of resources; manipulation of resources through representations; self-descriptive messages; hypermedia as the engine of application state. In particular, the definitions of self-descriptive messages and hypermedia are still debated.

Assuming you can decide on clear definitions of all 10 constraints, all that remains is to identify each of them within the target design. If the implementation does not exhibit all ten (well nine, since code-on-demand is optional), then it is not RESTful. This last step is not difficult. It is the previous step (agreeing on definitions) that causes problems.

Still not sure if your service is RESTful? Well, I originally published this post, in expanded form, on my personal blog. If you want to dig deeper, take a look over there.