Sunday, October 12, 2008

Simple messaging protocols

Messaging systems such as IBM's WebSphereMQ and similar use proprietary messaging protocols. So some library is always needed at the client side to talk the proprietary language to the messaging server. If such library is not available for your programming language, you're out of luck. Regarding standard API's, JMS seems the only one ever defined.

If a messaging server exposes a simple protocol over HTTP, it becomes possible to talk to the messaging server from any programming language. ActiveMQ is a good example in that area with their STOMP protocol. IBM has the "MQ Bridge for HTTP". And OpenMQ 4.3 now has the UMS protocol.

From quickly skimming over the REST versions of these protocols - UMS of OpenMQ in particular - they are not "pure REST" but rather "REST-RPC Hybrid" (cf. the great book "RESTful Web Services"): 1) HTTP POST is used instead of GET, PUT or DELETE, 2) the actual action is part of the URL parameters and 3) the interactions become stateful through Logon service request.

When I think about a "pure REST" approach for messaging, I expect to see URLs such as Sending a message becomes a HTTP PUT action. Peeking a message is a HTTP GET action. And receiving a message should become HTTP GET followed by HTTP DELETE (receiving a message is normally "destructive" in the messaging world). How to avoid concurrency issues in this receive scenario with multiple clients receiving the same message is a REST concurrency question that I gladly pass on ;-)

Closing remarks:
  • Another approach is taken by AMQP: this initiative standardizes a binary protocol between client and messaging server. Any AMQP client library in whatever programming language should be able to communicate with any AMQP compliant server. Adoption of AMQP is rather limited.
  • Existing messaging products (WebSphereMQ, SonicMQ, ...) can tunnel their protocol over HTTP(S), but that still requires use of their respective client libraries.
  • Most JMS messaging solutions support .Net (and optionally COM).
  • At Devoxx 2008, Linda Schneider will talk about "Connectivity with OpenMQ" and Bruce Snyder does university session about "ActiveMQ and ServiceMix".

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