Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Enterprise Integration Using REST

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Most internal REST APIs are one-off APIs purpose built for a single integration point. In this article, I'll discuss the constraints and flexibility that you have with nonpublic APIs, and lessons learned from doing large scale RESTful integration across multiple teams.

Why REST for enterprise integration?

Legacy replacements are hard. In fact, I'm willing to wager that large-scale legacy replacement is the hardest job in the entire IT industry. Most of us will never write software that companies continue to depend on for decades, but such software is commonplace in large legacy replacements, and its authors should be applauded. Nonetheless, such software predates much of what we've learned about design, testing, and good operational practices, and as such can be incredibly difficult to understand and change.

We often go into such replacements imagining the pristine architecture the new system will have and vastly underestimating the difficulty of the endeavor. Certain patterns emerge, understandable when seen against the backdrop of a massively entangled, custom built, difficult to change legacy system. First, we purchase vendor packages with the goal of reducing the in-house development effort to integration, vowing never again to be beholden to a bespoke system with no external support. Second, we land upon a service oriented architecture for integration, with the goal of baking in replaceability of the individual parts of the new system and reducing the pain of the inevitable future legacy replacement project.

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