by • June 28, 2023
When two different software applications want to join forces by sharing information, it’s not always a perfect union. Different database structures, programming languages, and network protocols tend to complicate the process. When reading about the various API technologies, you’ve probably come across two terms, OData vs REST, and wondered, “what’s the difference?”
It turns out that OData vs. REST are two closely related concepts. While they aren’t the same thing, they share a common approach to getting things done. You can think of OData as a set of principles for building RESTful APIs that focuses on your business logic rather than the technical side of building APIs.
Here are the key differences between OData and REST:
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REST (REpresentational State Transfer) is an API architectural style that defines how to send messages between two different apps using the HTTP protocol. Originally developed by Roy Fielding as a response to what some developers saw as the limitations of SOAP APIs (primarily SOAP’s strict reliance on XML), REST APIs can send messages in a variety of formats and languages, like CSV (comma-separated value) files and JSON. With the relative ease of use and flexibility compared to developing SOAP APIs, REST has grown to become the most popular architecture for exchanging information on the web.
The REST standard outlines six different principles or architectural constraints for web services:
According to the OData.org website, OData or Open Data Protocol “defines the best practice for building and consuming RESTful APIs. OData helps you focus on your business logic while building RESTful APIs without having to worry about the approaches to define request and response headers, status codes, HTTP methods, URL conventions, media types, payload formats and query options etc.”
REST is the most important component technology of OData. All OData users should adhere to the six REST principles unless there is a good reason not to do so. OData differs from REST and gains its focus on business logic in its feature set. Whereas REST is an architectural style solely concerned with data transfer via web service APIs, OData builds upon that architecture with a set of metadata that can be easily integrated into most programming and scripting languages.
The OData standard also defines the data model used to transfer data in response to a REST request. OData supports two different protocols for transferring data: the XML-based Atom format (for publishing and editing web resources) and JSON (for storing data in a human-readable manner).
Finally, OData includes guidance for how to perform actions such as tracking changes, defining reusable procedures, and sending multiple (batch) REST requests.
First created at Microsoft, OData was standardized by the nonprofit consortium OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards). As an OASIS standard, several large technology companies such as SAP and Salesforce have used the OData specification in their internal IT environments—and as a way for their customers to integrate business data.
Now up to version 4.0.1, OData has gained a wide variety of improvements and new features over the years. Some of the changes in version 4 include:
Understanding the similarities between OData vs REST can help developers make informed decisions about which approach to choose for their specific project requirements.
Key Similarities between OData and REST:
A quick summary of the difference between OData vs. REST is as follows:
Developers choose to use OData because of these benefits:
In the end, deciding whether to use a standard REST API or OData will come down to your business needs and what you need to do with the data.
When choosing between OData and REST for building web applications and APIs, developers often find themselves wondering which approach is the most suitable for their specific project needs. While both OData and REST have their strengths and use cases, understanding their differences can help in making an informed decision.
Advantages of OData:
Advantages of REST:
REST might be the better choice for simple data retrieval due to the speed and simplicity of development. If your needs are more complex, with specific business requirements, OData is likely to be a better fit due to how it naturally fits into programming logic. OData is also an extensible open standard, which allows developers to tap into the open-source community for code that meets business needs.
Whether you’re using OData or not, building your own REST API is time-consuming and technically complex. This is why companies look for an API management platform to streamline API development and management. The DreamFactory internet Platform as a Service (iPaaS) can automatically generate and manage REST APIs, helping you eliminate bottlenecks and modernize your legacy IT applications.
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REST (REpresentational State Transfer) is an architectural style for building web APIs. It defines a set of principles and constraints for designing and interacting with web services. REST APIs use standard HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) to perform operations on resources and transfer data in various formats like JSON and XML.
OData (Open Data Protocol) is a protocol that builds on top of the REST framework to define best practices for building and consuming RESTful APIs. OData provides additional features and standards, such as enhanced query capabilities, standardized metadata, and support for different data formats. It helps developers focus on their business logic while building RESTful APIs without worrying about the details of request/response handling, URL conventions, and payload formats.
OData and REST are related but distinct concepts. REST is an architectural style for building web APIs, while OData builds upon REST to define best practices for building RESTful APIs. OData provides additional features such as enhanced query capabilities and standardized metadata.
The choice between OData and REST depends on your specific project requirements. OData offers advanced query capabilities and standardized metadata, making it suitable for scenarios that require extensive querying and discoverability. REST provides simplicity, flexibility, wide adoption, and platform independence, making it a popular choice for a broad range of applications. Consider your project needs, complexity tolerance, interoperability requirements, and available resources to determine which approach is best for you.
OData supports both the Atom and JSON formats for transferring data. While these formats are commonly used with OData, they are not mandatory. OData provides flexibility in choosing the data format that best suits your needs, allowing you to work with other formats if desired.
REST and OData have their strengths and considerations. REST’s simplicity may lack some of the advanced features provided by OData, while OData’s additional capabilities may introduce complexity. It’s important to evaluate your project requirements and consider factors such as querying needs, metadata support, interoperability, and development resources before choosing between REST and OData.
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Terence Bennett, General Manager at DreamFactory, has a strong operational, business, and extensive experience in government IT systems and Google Cloud. He started his career as a U.S. Navy Intelligence Officer, then honed his skills on Google’s Red Team and later became the COO of Integrate.io.
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