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Developing Rich Web Service APIs with Java

This afternoon, I attended Ryan Heaton's talk on Developing Rich Web Service APIs with Java. I've always admired Ryan's work and what he's done with Enunciate. Below are my notes from his talk.

We've come a long way from the WS (SOAP) <-> EJB days. There are many tools that you can use to develop web services today. A Web Service is an API that's accessible over a network via platform-independent protocol. Historical examples of web services (in chronological order):

  • DCOM
  • RMI
  • SOAP
  • REST

A Web Service is composed of code wrapped with a container and it's bound to a contract. The table below shows the types of web services and their equivalent Java standard.


JAXB is the standard technology used to marshal XML <-> Java. It's annotation-driven, using @XmlRootElement, @XmlElement and @XmlAttribute to translate Java properties to XML.

JAX-WS is a Java standard, outputs classes as SOAP endpoints and it's annotation-driven. @WebService and @WebMethod are the main annotations. @WebMethod is only needed if you're trying to expose a non-public method.

JAX-RS is a Java standard used to expose REST services. Not surprisingly, it's annotation-driven. The class itself needs to be annotated with @Path. Methods are annotated with @GET, @PUT, @POST or @DELETE. If you need to pass in a parameter to a method, you can add a path parameter like the following:

public Person readPerson(@PathParam("id") String id);

To specify the possible mime-type outputs of a method, you can use the @Produces annotation. For example:

@Produces({"application/xml", "application/json"})

You can also do this for input methods with the @Consumes annotation.

For JSON, there's no Java standard. However, there's a number of libraries available, including Jackson, Jettison, GSON, XStream. Personally, I've used Jackson and highly recommend it.

The major players in exposing Java code as JAX-WS and JAX-RS services are Oracle, Spring and JBoss. Oracle (formerly Sun) has implemented the JAX-WS reference implementation and it's called Metro (a.k.a. JAX-WS RI). For JAX-RS, Oracle has the Jersey project. For Spring, the JAX-WS and JAX-RS implementation is Apache CXF. JBoss has JBoss-WS and RESTEasy.

There's also a number of custom containers for exposing web services. For example, AMF (implementations: BlazeDS, GraniteDS), GWT-RPC (GWT), JSON-PRC (DWR), Atom (Abdera), OpenSocial (Shindig).

The contract is a very important part of a web service API. It's composed of an Interface Definition Language (WSDL, WADL JSON Schema), Developer Docs (text, context, preconditions, restrictions), example code and client libraries.

Enunciate allows you to create your contract for your web services. It's a build-time WS Development tool. It generates developer documentation and client-side libraries (for Java, C/C++, Objective C, ActionScript and Ruby). It leverages existing specs (JAX-*) and fails fast at compile time.

From there, Ryan gave us a demo of Enunciate and how it could easily create an API website based on JAX-RS annotations.

I liked Ryan's talk and I'm definitely a fan of Enunciate. While I didn't learn anything new, I think there's a lot of Java developers that don't know about the various standards and how easy it is to develop web services. Hopefully by taking notes from Ryan's talk, I'll get the word out a bit more and make more folks aware of Enunciate. On a related note, Sonatype has a good post on how they documented the Nexus API with Enunciate.

Posted in Java at Mar 18 2010, 05:51:00 PM MDT 1 Comment

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