Remoting NG

Remoting NG Tutorial Part 4: RESTful Web Services

Welcome Back

Welcome to part four of the Remoting tutorial. This final part of the Remoting NG tutorial shows how to implement RESTful web services or APIs with the Remoting NG REST Transport.

This tuturial assumes that you are familiar with basic POCO C++ Libraries programming techniques. You should also have read the Remoting Overview and be familiar with basic Remoting concepts, such as presented in part 1 of the Remoting tutorial.

Defining RESTful Interfaces

Defining RESTful interfaces with C++ classes for Remoting NG is different from defining interfaces for other transports such as SOAP, JSON-RPC or TCP. The main difference is that method names are directly mapped to HTTP request method names (GET, POST, PATCH, PUT and DELETE). Therefore, only the following method names may be used:

  • get
  • post
  • patch
  • put
  • delete_ (note the trailing underscore)

RESTful vs. RPC-based interfaces

When defining RESTful interfaces, it's best to think in terms of collections and resources, and to define endpoints for both. Typically, a collection endpoint will be used to create new resources, and to obtain a list of existing resources of a given type or class. For that purpose, post() and get() methods are used. Resource endpoints are used to obtain details of a specific resource or object, make changes to the resource, or delete it, using get(), patch() (or put()) and delete_() methods.

The difference between RPC-based remote interfaces and RESTful interfaces is best demonstrated using a concrete example.

Example: User Management

A (quite simplistic) RPC-based remote service for user account management (using the TCP-based transport protocol, JSON-RPC or SOAP) could be implemented as follows:

//@ serialize
struct User
{
    std::string name;
    Poco::Optional<std::string> password;
    Poco::Optional<std::set<std::string>> permissions;
    Poco::Optional<std::set<std::string>> roles;
};


//@ remote
class UserManager
{
public:
    UserManager(/* ... */);
    ~UserManager();

    void addUser(const User& user);
    void updateUser(const User& user);
    User getUser(const std::string& username);
    void deleteUser(const std::string& username);

private:
    // ...
};

For implementing similar features in the form of a RESTful API, the implementation of the interface must be done in a different way. In fact, multiple classes will be used that cover different aspects of the web service according to REST principles. A typical implementation could consist of the following API endpoints:

Retrieving a List of Users

This is achieved with a GET request to the users collection:

GET /api/1.0/users HTTP/1.1
Host: localhost:80

The response looks like:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: application/json
Content-Length: nnn

[
    {
        "name": "admin",
        "permissions: 
        [
        ],
        "roles":
        [
            "administrator"
        ]
    },
    {
        ...
    }
]

Using query parameters, the result can be filtered or restricted:

GET /api/1.0/users?maxResults=10&start=10 HTTP/1.1
Host: localhost:80

Creating a User

This is achieved with a POST request to the users collection:

POST /api/1.0/users HTTP/1.1
Host: localhost:80
Content-Type: application/json
Content-Length: nnn

{
    "name": "admin",
    "password": "s3cr3t",
    "permissions": [
    ],
    "roles": [
        "administrator"
    ]
}

Updating and Deleting a User

We'd also like to be able to update and delete user accounts:

PATCH /api/1.0/users/admin HTTP/1.1
Host: localhost:80
Content-Type: application/json
Content-Length: nnn

{
    "permissions": [
        "somePermission"
    ]
}

DELETE /api/1.0/users/admin HTTP/1.1
Host: localhost:80

To keep things simple, we'll leave the supported operations at that. A real service could also add endpoints for nested objects such as permissions or roles. Implementing such a web service is straightforward with Remoting NG. We need to provide two C++ classes, one for handling the user collection, and the other for handling a single user account. The class declarations are shown in the following (we're using the User struct from above, but making the name field optional):

//@ serialize
struct User
{
    Poco::Optional<std::string> name;
    Poco::Optional<std::string> password;
    Poco::Optional<std::set<std::string>> permissions;
    Poco::Optional<std::set<std::string>> roles;
};


//@ remote
//@ path="/api/1.0/users"
class UserCollectionEndpoint
{
public:
    UserCollectionEndpoint(/* ... */);
    ~UserCollectionEndpoint();

    User post(const User& user);
        /// Create a new user.

    //@ $maxResults={in=query, mandatory=false}
    //@ $start={in=query, mandatory=false}
    std::vector<User> get(int maxResults = 0, int start = 0);
        /// Return a list of user objects, starting with
        /// the given start index, and return at most
        /// maxResults items.

private:
    // ...
};


//@ remote
//@ path="/api/1.0/users/{name}"
class UserEndpoint
{
public:
    UserEndpoint(/* ... */);
    ~UserEndpoint();

    //@ $name={in=path}
    User put(const std::string& name, const User& user);
        /// Update a user (calls patch()).

    //@ $name={in=path}
    User patch(const std::string& name, const User& user);
        /// Update a user.

    //@ $name={in=path}
    User get(const std::string& name);
        /// Retrieve a user by name.

    //@ $name={in=path}
    void delete_(const std::string& name);
        /// Delete a user.

private:
    // ...
};

What can be seen in the above code samples is that we only have to implement member functions for the HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, PATCH, DELETE) that our API supports. We don't have to deal with the details of parsing or creating JSON, or handling request URIs and query strings, or the intricacies of HTTP requests. The Remoting REST framework does all these things automatically, using code generated by the Remoting code generator, based on the annotations in the header files.

For example, for the UserCollectionEndpoint::post() method, the parameter is automatically serialized and deserialized to/from JSON, whereas for UserEndpoint::put(), the name of the user is extracted from the request path (note the placeholder {name} in the path annotation). Parameters passed in a query can also be handled, as seen in UserCollectionEndpoint::get(). Parameters can also be passed in HTTP request/response headers or in a form. Furthermore, HTTP authentication (basic, digest) is supported, as well as HTTPS.

Parameters

In general, in RESTful web services, parameters can be passed in the following locations:

  • request/response body, using JSON or raw format
  • query strings
  • form data in request body
  • request path
  • HTTP request/response headers

Non-scalar values can only be passed in request or response body, using JSON format. Scalar values can be passed in any part of the request or response. The location and format of parameters is specified using REST-specific Remoting NG attributes.

Resource Paths

The default Remoting NG resource path (/rest/class/object) is not really well suited for RESTful web service endpoints. Therefore, every endpoint class should specify a proper path with the path attribute. The path can contain parameter placeholders in the form of a parameter name enclosed in curly brackets. Resource paths specified on an endpoint object using the path attribute will automatically be registered as alias paths with the ORB when the respective RemoteObject is registered using the generated ServerHelper.

Working With RESTful Web Services

Setting up a server to provide a RESTful web service works the same as with the other Remoting NG transports. Again the first step is setting up and optionally configuring the REST Listener instance (Poco::RemotingNG::REST::Listener). Then, endpoints can be registered using the Listener.

// create and register REST listener
Poco::RemotingNG::REST::Listener::Ptr pListener = new Poco::RemotingNG::REST::Listener("0.0.0.0:8080");
std::string listener = Poco::RemotingNG::ORB::instance().registerListener(pListener);

// register endpoints
std::string userCollectionEndpointURI = UserCollectionEndpointServerHelper::registerObject(
    new UserCollectionEndpoint(/* ... */), "endpoint", listener);
std::string userEndpointURI = UserEndpointServerHelper::registerObject(
    new UserEndpoint(/* ... */), "endpoint", listener);

Since the default Remoting NG resource path (in the above example, "/rest/UserCollectionEndpoint/endpoint" and "/rest/UserEndpoint/endpoint") will not be used by clients, the name of the service object passed to registerObject() does not really matter, we simply use the name "endpoint" here. Any other (valid) name would also be fine.

On the client side, invoking a RESTful web service using Remoting NG generated code also involves the steps known from the previous tutorials. First, the REST Transport Factory (Poco::RemotingNG::REST::TransportFactory) must be registered. Then, the generated ClientHelper classes are used to create proxy objects for the endpoints. One difference here is that since we're not using the standard Remoting NG URI paths, we need to specify a second argument to the ClientHelper to tell it we're going to use the REST Transport.

// register transport
Poco::RemotingNG::REST::TransportFactory::registerFactory();

// get proxies for remote objects
IUserCollectionEndpoint::Ptr pUserCollection = UserCollectionEndpointClientHelper::find(
    "http://localhost:8080/api/1.0/users", "rest");
IUserEndpoint::Ptr pUser = UserEndpointClientHelper::find(
    "http://localhost:8080/api/1.0/users/{name}", "rest");

The URI path specified in the call to *ClientHelper::find() should be the same that's specified in the endpoint class using the path attribute, even if it contains placeholders.

This concludes the Remoting NG tutorials. Please look at the sample applications provided with Remoting NG for more examples showing how to invoke RESTful web services.