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Journey from Idea to Practice: Internetworking and Protocols

April 29, 2019

Last week, I wrote about OLTP and Java. Both are important software that has moved forward at different paces and trajectories, yet both are projected to continue in a strong way into the future. This week, I’ll focus on internetworking and protocols like HTTP, as well as APIs and representational state transfer, SOAP and XML. 
For some users of IT, it’s not possible to remember a time without accessible internetworking because it was available when they were born. For others, we experienced a time when networking was largely a company tool. We went to work to use a network to get work done as that was the only viable way to work. Regardless if we wrote programs or simply used them, we went to a location like an office or warehouse to use typewriter-like devices or CRTs that were wired to controllers that were wired to a main computer.
Of course, that all changed and evolved quickly when PCs arrived in the 1980s. At first, they replaced CRTs. Then they became devices capable of client-server interactions and functionality. In parallel to this corporate computing story, researchers at universities were evolving networks and devices in different ways, starting with work at MIT starting in 1962. The protocols used in early internetworking like packet switching were developed at this time. Over the decades of the 1960s to the 1990s, the number of networks on the internet grew from 3 to 50,000. 
Today, our interconnected internet supports much of what we do, including the ability to support work at home. High-speed networking isn’t available to everyone, but many computer users have a network at home that are powerful and reliable. This technology has changed so much from how and where we work to how we entertain ourselves, socialize and purchase the things we want and need. The combination of internetworking and the World Wide Web, (that was started in 1989) with support from protocols like HTTP and tools like web browsers, are still rapidly evolving and growing, and bringing with it changes to many aspects of our life and work. 
APIs, REST, SOAP and XML are important elements that are built upon networking and the World Wide Web. In its own way, each of these helps to interconnect elements at the application layer that is the place that many of us interact with computers. “APIs” is a term that has both a general and specific meaning depending on the content it is used. Today, when people discuss APIs, they’re talking about a modern use of the term. 
Modern APIs are built to be flexible, so it’s easy for an outside group, other developers, to use what you have created to access and utilize the resources you’re sharing. In “APIs for Dummies”, it’s suggested that we think of APIs as a product—something carefully crafted so it’s attractive to the intended consumer. So the API is a package created by a development team for other developers to use. These APIs are then made available, often in catalogs, like the API explored catalog from IBM on developerWorks.
Under the API, in direct support of it are REST and SOAP. Some developers, mainly those that spend most of their time using REST, may think it’s odd that REST and SOAP appear in the same sentence as they are so dissimilar. The figure below will give you a hint about how they are different.


XML fits into this discussion as it’s a software- and hardware-independent tool for storing and transporting data, and, as such, it’s a good example of technology that has been used extensively in internetworked environments where data is often passed around for use. 
8 Ideas in Focus
I hope that you enjoyed this multipart series on the journey from ideas to practices. In these four posts, I discussed:
  1. Web hosting: How it got started, how to transition to hosting your own and hosting on IBM Z
  2. An alternative to the monolith: It’s easier to maintain an app if it were made of smaller, loosely connected elements 
  3. Computing architectures: Centralized, decentralized and enterprise 
  4. Emergence of Linux: An important OS
  5. Java: An important language
  6. OLTP: Why we needed it, how it developed and the role it plays today
  7. Internetworking and protocols like HTTP
  8. APIs and REST, SOAP and XML
Next week, I’ll more on to a new series.  

Posted April 29, 2019| Permalink

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