Monitors displaying odata and rest

Many things are better in combination—like peanut butter and jelly, or Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. But when two different software applications want to combine forces by communicating and exchanging information, how can they do so in a way that both of them understand? Over the years, a number of protocols and standards have emerged for defining the terms of communication between multiple systems. When reading about these technologies, you might have come across two terms: OData and REST.

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While OData and REST are two closely related concepts, they aren’t quite the same. Below, we’ll go over everything you need to know: first, we’ll answer the questions “What is REST?” and “What is OData?”, and then explain the difference between OData and REST. To navigate this article, please use the following internal links:

OData vs REST: What is REST?
OData vs REST: What is OData?
OData vs REST: What’s the Difference?

OData vs REST: What is REST?

REST (REpresentational State Transfer) is a software architectural style that defines how to send messages between two different systems using the HTTP protocol. Originally developed by Roy Fielding two decades ago, REST has grown to become the most popular architecture for exchanging information on the World Wide Web.

The REST standard outlines 6 different principles or architectural constraints for web services:

  • Uniform interface: All of the components in a REST system must follow the same rules and interface in order to communicate with each other. Each resource is uniquely identified by a URI (Uniform Resource Identifiers).
  • Client-server: REST separates servers, which are concerned with storing and sending information, from clients, which are concerned with obtaining information and using it appropriately. This separation allows both sides to be more independent and scalable.
  • Stateless: Every request made using REST is stateless: it contains all of the information necessary for the server to execute the request. The server is not required to store parameters or state after the request is complete. For example, if a client requests access to a restricted resource, the client must send its authentication token to the server with each request it makes.
  • Cacheable: Both clients and servers in REST can cache resources, helping to reduce traffic and improve performance.
  • Layered system: REST allows for a layered system architecture: the client may be communicating with only one server in the system, while other servers perform functions such as authentication and data storage. The client is not able to tell whether it is communicating with an end system or an intermediary.
  • Code on demand: Optionally, REST requests can return logic or executable code when necessary.

An API (application programming interface) that adheres to the above principles is known as a REST (or RESTful) API. 

OData vs REST: What is OData?

According to the OData website, OData (Open Data Protocol) “defines a set of best practices for building and consuming RESTful APIs. OData helps you focus on your business logic while building RESTful APIs without having to worry about the various approaches to define request and response headers, status codes, HTTP methods, URL conventions, media types, payload formats, query options, etc.”

First created at Microsoft, OData was standardized by the nonprofit consortium OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards). Enterprise technology companies such as IBM, SAP, and Salesforce have all used OData in their internal IT environments.

REST is the most important component technology of OData. According to the OData 3.0 standards, OData users should follow REST principles “unless there is a good and specific reason not to.”

The OData standard also defines the data model that is 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.

OData vs REST: What’s the Difference?

With all that said, the difference between OData and REST is as follows:

  • REST is an architectural style for exchanging information via the HTTP protocol. The REST standard defines 6 principles (1 optional) that must be adhered to by any REST API.
  • OData builds on top of the REST framework to define best practices for building REST APIs—including the HTTP message format, how to query the API, and more. Although OData encourages users to follow REST principles at all times, this requirement can be relaxed if there is a compelling reason. In addition, OData specifies that data should be transferred in Atom or JSON format.

Did you know you can generate a full-featured, documented, and secure REST API in minutes using DreamFactory? Sign up for our free 14 day hosted trial to learn how! Our guided tour will show you how to create an API using an example MySQL database provided to you as part of the trial!

Create Your REST API Now

Conclusion

Whether you’re using OData or not, building your own REST API is time-consuming and technically complex—which is why DreamFactory offers an enterprise-class API management solution. The DreamFactory platform can automatically generate and manage REST APIs, helping you eliminate bottlenecks and modernize your legacy IT applications.

Ready to see how DreamFactory can digitally transform your organization? Get in touch with our team today for a chat about your business needs and objectives, or to start your free trial of the DreamFactory platform.