GraphQL, An Improved Alternative To REST
Data transmission is the process that utilizes HTTP in sending and receiving messages across applications. It began with SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) it then went into the Representational State Transfer; this API design set the stage for efficient data retrieval, superb access to resources and brought about stateless servers. Data management kept on evolving and has now brought with it a new design.
GraphQL, an open-source technology created by Facebook in 2012, The technology has gained popularity, and it continues to gain traction every day. I believe that with its efficiency, it should not only be seen as a replacement for REST but as an improved alternative.
Architectural Style Used by REST and Its Major Constraints
When interacting with one another, the designs architecture follows a definitive set of constraints, cacheability being one of them. For the optimal stability and performance of the computer, the computed resources must be temporarily stored or cached. Therefore the server declares what should be cashed and for how long.
Using statelessness, the API design separates the clients and the server’s concerns. This means that this design does not store the session data between the client and the server.
Handling the design responses and keeping the client from the server they are communicating with is dealt with by the functionality of one of the layered system architectures which may include proxy, load balancing, persistent layer, and authentication.
To fetch the desired information, the resource involved in the data must use a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) commonly referred to as RESTs uniform interface.
Netflix has Falcor, an open source java library developed by Netflix but for their programming, they chose to use GraphQL. Netflix is the world’s biggest streaming service. Their decision to use it was based solely upon its technological flexibility. The flexibility allows for easier data accessibility despite the storage.
GraphQL is very pliable where a single entity graph is applicable. Netflix defines the schema and then builds UIs around it. Garret Heinlen, the software engineer at Netflix, says they use it as their living source of API documentation. He appreciates the schema, the model that enables improved communication between their front-end and back-end engineers.
Why Is GraphQL Gaining More Traction and Popularity?
In REST APIs a client uses endpoints to gain access to all corresponding data. This is most helpful when a client needs some specific set of information. It, however, becomes complicated when the front-end is involved in rapid interactions. The front-end keeps making changes to the UI, forcing the back-end to handle the demand leading to high latency and unproductivity.
With the use of this new design clients specify their data requirements, and the changes made do not affect the amount of work done on the servers-side. It analyses the back-end using the information provided by the client. You can then get information on your clients’ needs and develop an understanding of your client’s data usage.
It can monitor and measure the query handlers using the resolver functions. This helps in the monitoring of low-level application performance. The monitoring produces great insight into issues the application architecture may experience. Its crux asks exactly what the client wants and gives that specific answer. It also simplifies the way data is accessed and how it’s handled.
This is unlike in REST, where the process of retrieving data makes several roundtrips to different endpoints creating bottlenecks as data is retrieved and at the same time wastes bandwidth when scaling an application. It over-fetches for information not asked and under-fetches what is asked. It also doesn’t always follow the protocols of using HTTP, and one has to go through namespaces and packages in housing manageable client codes and specified naming conventions.
GraphQL, on the other hand, uses a universal schema and a type system that makes it easier to create uniform API without using a specific language or storage engine. It uses a schema definition language that produces a flexible and more reliable communication structure between the teams. The strongly typed schema serves as the language between the server and the client and makes documentation easier to understand and even use.
Data currently stored in the applications back-end needs to be modified from time to time. This data modification is referred to as data mutation. Mutations are achieved through the creation of new data, (for example, when an application requires you to sign in), through existing data update (for example, when a user is removed from the application because of mischievous activities) and through deleting already existing data (for example, when the user requests for a picture to be deleted). These processes are similar in both of them. REST however falls short when through multiple requests; it has to define relationships and at the same time add special parameters to change the response in the URL.
Graph QL has enabled other key architectural patterns. They include strangler pattern, data federation, and the Apollo federation. Stranglers’ pattern is used in fronting legacy applications by providing an abstraction that allows the system’s modernization system by the back-end teams while still upholding their clients’ contracts. The Apollo federation is an up-and-coming pattern that will allow for building separate microservices that can later combine within a gateway to form a unified business domains supergraph. Data federation pattern creates a unified supergraph across multiple data sources. this allows developers to connect data from different sources like they are in the same database
The entire Netflix studio ecosystem through Apollo federation has combined more than 100m different subgraph’s put them together into one unified schema for their whole ecosystem. Netflix has invested heavily into the microservice architecture, and the federation fit perfectly in the unification of disparate microservice APIs
Is There Need to Migrate?
GraphQL benefits include making life easier for the front-end teams, easier versioning of the API, lowering the cost of data transfers, and faster loading time for applications. The two must be considered differently. One is an architectural pattern, while the other is a technology and a language.
Migrating from REST may not make a significant change for most applications, but when the apps begin to scale, migrating becomes of value. Move today into GraphQL and experience elegant and powerful solutions for front-end and back-end teams.