Soap vs Rest: Know the Differences And How to Choose Between the Web API Services

When people throw out words like “soap” and “rest,” it’s only natural to turn to thoughts of bathing and sleeping. However, these terms take on a radically different meaning in the context of IT. There are many different types of IT platforms and programming languages to choose from. This diversity has given rise to the need for ways that these various elements can communicate with each other. Enter the Application Programming Interface or API.

APIs facilitate data transfers from one application to another, regardless of its platform or language. The API receives requests then sends back replies via internet protocols like HTTP and SMTP. However, there are several different APIs to choose from, and so here we are!

This article explores two popular API styles — SOAP vs REST. We will take a close look at what they are, their fundamental differences, and a few examples.

Let’s kick things off with SOAP and start by answering the burning question: “What does SOAP stand for?”

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What Is the SOAP API?

SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol. Microsoft created SOAP in 1998 and is an integral part of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). So then, what is a simple object access protocol? It's a standardized web communication protocol that exposes web services and sends data using SMTP or HTTP protocols.

SOAP relies exclusively on the Extensible Markup Language (XML) for messaging services. SOAP is an official protocol, complete with built-in security features and strict rules. It’s complex and uses large amounts of bandwidth and other resources.

SOAP is a heavyweight protocol designed for heavyweight architecture. While this brings many advantages to the table, we will soon see that it comes at a price.

What Is the Rest API, and What Does REST API Stand For?

REST is short for Representational State Transfer. It is an architectural style that enables programs to communicate with each other, designed especially for functioning with components like files, media components, and objects on a specific hardware device. REST was designed to address SOAP’s shortcomings and offer an easier way to access web services.

Web services created using the REST architectural style are known as RESTful web services. REST is very popular with developers who design public APIs.

When comparing SOAP vs REST, the latter is more data-driven, and depends on a stateless communications protocol, usually HTTP. Although REST can structure data using YAML, XML, or any other machine-readable format, it uses JSON most.

SOAP API Examples

Let’s take a look at two API examples, each rendered in a different programming language. These come courtesy of AlgoSec.

Perl

#!/usr/bin/perl -w

use Data::Dumper;

#use SOAP::Lite ( +trace => all, maptype => {} );

use SOAP::Lite;

#$ENV{PERL_LWP_SSL_VERIFY_HOSTNAME} = 0;

my $soap = SOAP::Lite->proxy('https://localhost/AFA/php/ws.php?wsdl');

# Do not verify the SSL key

$soap->transport->ssl_opts(

verify_hostname => 0,

SSL_verify_mode => 0x00

);

#

# Login to AFA Web Service

#

sub ConnectAFA

{

my $sUserName = shift; # User name

my $sPassword = shift; # Password

my $sDomain = shift; # Domain name or empty for non domain envirnment

$sDomain = (!defined $sDomain) ? '' : $sDomain;

my $method = SOAP::Data->name('ConnectRequest')->attr({xmlns => 'https://www.algosec.com/afa-ws'});

my @params = (

SOAP::Data->name(UserName => $sUserName),

SOAP::Data->name(Password => $sPassword),

SOAP::Data->name(Domain => $sDomain)

);

my $sSessionID = $soap->call($method => @params)->result;

}

#

# Executing query request

#

sub ExecQuery

{

my $sSessionID = shift;

my $sQueryTarget = shift;

$sQueryTarget = (!defined $sQueryTarget) ? '' : $sQueryTarget;

my $method = SOAP::Data->name('QueryRequest')->attr({xmlns => 'https://www.algosec.com/afa-ws'});

my $QueryInput = SOAP::Data->name('QueryRequest')->attr({xmlns => 'https://www.algosec.com/afa-ws'});

my @params = (

SOAP::Data->name(SessionID => $sSessionID),

SOAP::Data->name(QueryInput => \SOAP::Data->value(

SOAP::Data->name(Source => '*'),

SOAP::Data->name(Destination => '*'),

SOAP::Data->name(Service => '80'),

SOAP::Data->name(Service => '443')

)

),

SOAP::Data->name(QueryTarget => $sQueryTarget)

);

return $soap->call($method => @params);

}

#

# Disconnect from AFA Web Service (terminate session)

#

sub DisconnectAFA

{

my $sSessionID = shift;

my $method = SOAP::Data->name('DisconnectRequest')->attr({xmlns => 'https://www.algosec.com/afa-ws'});

my @params = (

SOAP::Data->name(SessionID => $sSessionID),

);

return $soap->call($method => @params)->valueof('//DisconnectResponse');

}

my $sSessionID = ConnectAFA('admin', 'algosec', '');

print "\n";

print "Session ID: '" . $sSessionID ."'";

print "\n";

my $QueryResult = ExecQuery($sSessionID, 'afa-276');

foreach my $Result ($QueryResult->valueof('//QueryResult/')) {

print Dumper($Result);

}

print "\n";

my $Disconnect = DisconnectAFA($sSessionID);

print "Disconnect: ";

print $Disconnect;

print "\n";

Python

#!/usr/bin/python

from SOAPpy import SOAPProxy

def ConnectAFA(params):

# username/password

username = params['UserName']

password = params['Password']

domain = params['Domain']

proxy = 'https://'+sHost+'/AFA/php/ws.php?wsdl'

namespace = 'https://www.algosec.com/afa-ws'

server = SOAPProxy(proxy, namespace)

if (DebugMode):

# uncomment these for debugging output

server.config.dumpHeadersIn = 1

server.config.dumpHeadersOut = 1

server.config.dumpSOAPOut = 1

server.config.dumpSOAPIn = 1

response = server.ConnectRequest(UserName=username, Password=password, Domain=domain)

return response

def SendQueryRequest(params):

# username/password

SessionID = params['SessionID']

QueryInput = params['QueryInput']

proxy = 'https://'+sHost+'/AFA/php/ws.php?wsdl'

namespace = 'https://www.algosec.com/afa-ws'

server = SOAPProxy(proxy, namespace)

if (DebugMode):

# uncomment these for debugging output

server.config.dumpHeadersIn = 1

server.config.dumpHeadersOut = 1

server.config.dumpSOAPOut = 1

server.config.dumpSOAPIn = 1

response = server.QueryRequest(SessionID=SessionID, QueryInput=QueryInput)

return response

def DisconnectAFA(params):

# username/password

SessionID = params['SessionID']

proxy = 'https://'+sHost+'/AFA/php/ws.php?wsdl'

namespace = 'https://www.algosec.com/afa-ws'

server = SOAPProxy(proxy, namespace)

if (DebugMode):

# uncomment these for debugging output

server.config.dumpHeadersIn = 1

server.config.dumpHeadersOut = 1

server.config.dumpSOAPOut = 1

server.config.dumpSOAPIn = 1

response = server.DisconnectRequest(SessionID=SessionID)

return response

sHost = '192.168.3.82'

#DebugMode = True

DebugMode = False

print "\n" + "Submitting connect request:" + "\n"

values = {'UserName': 'admin', 'Password': 'algosec', 'Domain': ''}

afa_connect = ConnectAFA(values)

SessionID = afa_connect

print "Returned Session ID: "+repr(SessionID)

print "\n" + "Submitting query request:" + "\n"

QueryParams = {'SessionID': SessionID,'QueryInput': {'Source': '192.168.1.100', 'Destination': '10.228.16.10', 'Service': 'tcp/22'}}

QueryResult = SendQueryRequest(QueryParams)

print QueryResult

print "\n" + "Submitting disconnect request:" + "\n"

DisconnectParams = {'SessionID': SessionID}

DisconnectResult = DisconnectAFA(DisconnectParams)

print DisconnectResult

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REST API Examples

In this SOAP vs REST comparison, let’s now look at examples of REST, courtesy of Tableau.

The first REST API request a programmer must make is the sign-in.

POST /api/2.2/auth/signin HTTP/1.1

HOST: my-server

Content-Type:text/xml

<tsRequest>

  <credentials name="administrator" password="passw0rd">

<site contentUrl="" />

  </credentials>

</tsRequest>

Here’s how to create a request to get a list of users.

GET /api/2.2/sites/9a8b7c6d-5e4f-3a2b-1c0d-9e8f7a6b5c4d/users/users HTTP/1.1

HOST: my-server

X-Tableau-Auth: 12ab34cd56ef78ab90cd12ef34ab56cd

And finally, here’s a request to update an existing user.

PUT /api/2.2/sites/9a8b7c6d-5e4f-3a2b-1c0d-9e8f7a6b5c4d/users/9f9e9d9c-8b8a-8f8e-7d7c-7b7a6f6d6e6d HTTP/1.1

HOST: my-server

X-Tableau-Auth: 12ab34cd56ef78ab90cd12ef34ab56cd

Content-Type: text/xml

<tsRequest>

  <user fullName="NewUser2" siteRole="ViewerWithPublish" />

</tsRequest>

The Key Differences Between SOAP vs REST

By now, it’s quite clear that SOAP vs REST are two very different animals even though they both exist for the same reason.  But let’s make the SOAP vs REST API differences easier to compare by illustrating them with a chart.

SOAP vs REST

                              SOAP

                                REST

Is a protocol

Is an architectural style

Cannot use REST because the latter’s an architectural style

Can use SOAP web services since it’s a protocol like HTTP

Uses the Java API “JAX-WS” for its web services

Uses the Java API “JAX-RS” for its web services

Defines standards that must be strictly followed

Not so many standards, as recommendations and loose guidelines

Defines its own security

Relies on the security measures of the underlying transport

Uses considerably more bandwidth than REST

Requires much less bandwidth than SOAP

Allows only XML data format

Allows data formats such as Plain text, HTML, JSON, XML, etc.

Uses service interfaces to expose business logic

Uses URI to expose business logic

It’s function-driven.

It’s data-driven.

SOAP Advantages

Here’s why it’s a good idea to use SOAP.

  • Built-in error handling
  • It’s standardized
  • It functions well in distributed enterprise environments
  • It’s platform, language, and transport independent
  • It supplies automation with some language products

And here’s why you may want to pass on it.

  • It’s complex
  • It performs poorly compared to REST
  • It’s less flexible

REST Advantages

And here’s why you need a REST.

  • It has a shorter learning curve
  • It’s efficient and fast
  • It’s design philosophy is more in-line with other web technologies
  • Employs easy-to-understand standards such as OpenAPI Specification 3.0 and Swagger

And here are REST’s drawbacks.

  • It’s not as secure as SOAP
  • It’s not suited for distributed environments

Although REST has become more popular than SOAP, the latter won’t be going away any time soon. SOAP is perfect for enterprise-level web services that use complex transactions and require high security. SOAP APIs are ideal for payment gateways, identity management, CRM software, and financial services.

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Now that you have become familiar with SOAP vs REST, you’re probably wondering what careers use them. Full stack developers employ resources like SOAP and REST as they build websites and develop apps. There is an increasing need for full stack developers, and Simplilearn can help you change to that rewarding and challenging career.

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According to Glassdoor.com, full stack Java developers earn an average of USD 105,813 per year. Indeed.com reports that a full stack Java developer in India can make an annual average salary of ₹660,711.

The Secret to the Most Effective Web Developer Upskilling

The best developers stay ahead of the pack by continually improving their skill sets, including working with SOAP vs REST. Simplilearn provides developers with a great selection of training courses to help web developers upskill. For instance, there’s the Post Graduate Program in Full Stack Web Development, held in collaboration with Caltech CTME. Or you could learn about MEAN stack with the Full Stack Web Developer- MEAN Stack master’s program.

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