by Tony Harris • December 16, 2020
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?
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:
An API (application programming interface) that adheres to the above principles is known as a REST (or RESTful) API.
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.
With all that said, the difference between OData and REST is as follows:
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