11

We are developing a REST API which among others is going to be consumed by an HTML5 frontend via javascript. The application is for use within the organization and usually has about 300 users, but we want to scale well up to 1000 users or so.

Normally connections to the API will be made within the LAN so the quality and latency of the connection will be good, although it is not excluded occasional use over the Internet where connections could be slower and with more lag via 3G/4G.

The two options that we thought are:

  1. The frontend will make several simultaneous asynchronous calls to the API to load the various components of the interface.

    • Pros: Simplicity.
    • Cons: More connections to the server.
  2. The controller of the frontend will make a single call to the API passing as parameters which objects need to be fetched.

    • Pros: Only one connection to the server, although the server will make several connection to the database.
    • Cons: Requires mechanisms in both frontend and API. It complicates the design.

Further explanations: There will be different resources .../Product .../Locations etc. These resources could be fetched alone, but there will be another abstract resource .../screen?Product&Locations that will fetch both in one call.

11

Option 1 (multiple async calls) is the best choice because:

  1. each individual call is its own entity, so you can retry individually if something happens to fail. In the monolithic 'one-call' architecture, if one thing fails you have to do the entire call again
  2. the server side code will be simpler: again, modularity, meaning that different developers can work on different API resources
  3. In a typical MVC pattern it doesn't make sense to have one API call load multiple separate resources; for example, if you make a request to /products to get a list of products to show on a page, and you also want to display a list of locations where popular products are sold, you have two separate resources: Product and Location. Though they are displayed on the same page, you can't logically make a call to /products and have it also return locations as well
  4. your logging/utilization reports will be simpler in the modular approach. If you make a request to /products and you're also loading locations, your log files are going to be really confusing
  5. if you have a problem with a particular resource, the one-call approach will cause the entire page to break and it won't be obvious to your users what broke - and this means it will take longer for your team to fix the issue; however, in the modular approach if one thing breaks, it will be very obvious what broke and you can fix it faster. It also won't ruin the rest of the page (unless things are too closely coupled...)
  6. it will be easier to make changes in general if things are separated; if you have 5 resources being loaded by one API call, it will be harder to figure out how to not break things when you want to change something

The whole point is that resources are separate, and in a REST API returning many separate resources from a single API path doesn't make sense, even if you're "saving connections to the server". By the way, using parameters to conditionally load (different) resources is not RESTful.

All that said, the only logical option is to make multiple async requests to separate resources: take the modular approach!

PS - Don't prematurely optimize away "connections to the server", especially when HTTP connections are incredibly low overhead and you're on a LAN. That kind of thinking instead of choosing the simpler design right off the bat is going to get you into trouble later.

  • 1
    Also, modular is likely easier to unit test. – user949300 Dec 26 '15 at 1:33
  • @user949300 Good point, I didn't even think of that! Unit testing would in fact be much easier if things are decoupled. – Chris Cirefice Dec 26 '15 at 3:20
  • Thanks for the quick and extended response. I agree to all, but I think I didn't explain it OK. There will be different resources /Product /Locations etc. These resources could be fetched alone, but there will be another abstract resource /screen?Product&Locations that will fetch both in one call. Anyway I also prefer the simpler way. – mattinsalto Dec 27 '15 at 11:22
  • @mattinsalto The approach of /screen?Product&Locations is a bad approach, at least with all the experience I have developing REST APIs and a web app that used them. From a pure monolithic perspective (e.g. in Ruby on Rails), having a route to /screen that loads both Product and Location resources is perfectly fine. However, from a REST perspective, you will never want a route to load more than one (unless you're JOINING tables to get more data at once). What /screen should do is load a basic layout page and you AJAX your API to get the data (Product, Location, etc). – Chris Cirefice Dec 27 '15 at 17:27
  • @mattinsalto If you're developing a REST API to use in a web app (as well as other things), you need to just focus on the data, and less on how your apps are going to be using the data. The REST API should support basic operations (as you need them) for each resource. Then, your web app will do the loading of all the resources it needs for any given page (e.g. /screen will AJAX HTTP GET to /products/popular and /locations). Your API shouldn't be the one doing multiple loads, because it's unlikely that you will display the data the same way in a web app vs Android for example. – Chris Cirefice Dec 27 '15 at 17:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.