WCF Simplified Part 9: SOAP, WSDL, and REST

Today we’ll look at some of the basic concepts in web services so that we can have a better understanding of how WCF works.

1. SOAP 1.2: SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol. It is simply an XML document that describes a message (structured and typed information) that can be sent from one network endpoint to another. SOAP is fundamentally a stateless, one-way message exchange paradigm, but applications can create more complex interaction patterns (e.g., request/response) by combining such one-way exchanges with features provided by an underlying protocol and/or application-specific information. A SOAP message may be transferred by different underlying protocols for example, for web-based access, it could be placed in the body of a HTTP POST request. The schema for the SOAP XML can be found here. The structure of a SOAP message looks like this,

<?xml version='1.0' ?>
<soap:Envelope xmlns:soap="http://www.w3.org/2003/05/soap-envelope">

  <!-- The header is optional. It contains contextual information related to the message -->

  <!-- The body is mandatory -->
    <!-- Sample content -->
    <ns:GetPassengerName xmlns:ns="http://someURI">


And another could look like,

<?xml version='1.0' ?>
<soap:Envelope xmlns:soap="http://www.w3.org/2003/05/soap-envelope">

  <!-- The body is mandatory -->
    <!-- The body has content -->
    <ns:GetPassengerNameResponse xmlns:ns="http://someURI">
      <ns:PassengerName>John Locke</ns:PassengerName>
    <!-- or can report a fault -->

The above example is a little contrived, it’s recommended that you use URIs as resource identifiers, so your host might look like http://someHOST/somePATH?PassengerNameFromID=815.

The SOAP-HTTP binding is of particular interest because it is widely used.

    a. SOAP HTTP GET example,

GET /somePATH?PassengerNameFromID=815 HTTP/1.1
Host: someHOST
Accept: text/html;q=0.9, application/soap+xml

with a response,

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: application/soap+xml; charset="utf-8"
Content-Length: [...]

<?xml version='1.0' ?>
<env:Envelope xmlns:env="http://www.w3.org/2003/05/soap-envelope">

    b. SOAP HTTP POST example,

Host: someHOST
Content-Type: application/soap+xml; charset="utf-8"
Content-Length: [...]

<?xml version='1.0' ?>
<env:Envelope xmlns:env="http://www.w3.org/2003/05/soap-envelope" >

2. WSDL 1.1: WSDL stands for Web Services Description Language. It is simply an XML document that describes a web service. The schema for the WSDL XML is publicly available here. The WSDL XML needs to describe fully how communication between two network endpoints will occur. It is a binding mechanism, it attaches a specific protocol or format to a message, operation or endpoint. The major parts of the WSDL XML are,

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<definitions name="HelloService">

    <!-- What data types are exchanged -->
    <!--What messages are exchanged --> 

    <!-- What operations are supported by the web service --> 

    <!-- How the messages will be transmitted --> 

    <!-- Where is the web service located --> 

Say you have a service contract,

public interface IService1 {
    string GetData(int value);

The corresponding WSDL looks like (some things omitted for clarity),

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<wsdl:definitions name="Service1" xmlns:wsdl="http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/wsdl/" [...]>
  <!-- The two messages GetData and GetDataResponse (because IsOneWay is false) -->
  <wsdl:message name="IService1_GetData_InputMessage">
    <wsdl:part name="parameters" element="tns:GetData"/>
  <wsdl:message name="IService1_GetData_OutputMessage">
    <wsdl:part name="parameters" element="tns:GetDataResponse"/>

  <!-- The web service only has one operation - GetData -->
  <wsdl:portType name="IService1">
    <wsdl:operation name="GetData">
      <wsdl:input wsaw:Action="http://tempuri.org/IService1/GetData" message="tns:IService1_GetData_InputMessage"/>
      <wsdl:output wsaw:Action="http://tempuri.org/IService1/GetDataResponse" message="tns:IService1_GetData_OutputMessage"/>
  <!-- Note the WSHttpBinding -->
  <wsdl:binding name="WSHttpBinding_IService1" type="tns:IService1">
    <wsdl:operation name="GetData">
          <wsp:PolicyReference URI="#WSHttpBinding_IService1_GetData_Input_policy"/>
          <wsp:PolicyReference URI="#WSHttpBinding_IService1_GetData_output_policy"/>
  <!-- The address for the web service -->
  <wsdl:service name="Service1">
    <wsdl:port name="WSHttpBinding_IService1" binding="tns:WSHttpBinding_IService1">
        <Identity xmlns="http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2006/02/addressingidentity">

3. REST: REST stands for Representational State Transfer. REST is basically a set of design principles for web services. Since it’s not a protocol (like SOAP), it doesn’t specify any new XML or schema but relies on HTTP’s methods (GET/POST/PUT/DELETE). The idea is to design (REST-ful) web services that deal with identifying and manipulating resources using HTTP methods. is to use The four main tenets of REST are,

    a. Use HTTP methods correctly: This means use the methods GET/POST/PUT/DELETE for what they are meant for. For example, GET should be a safe retrieval with no side effects.

    b. Be Stateless: Design the host and client so that the HTTP headers and body of a request contains all of the parameters, context, and data needed by the server-side component to generate a response. A stateless service shifts most of the responsibility of maintaining state to the client application.

   c. Expose self-documenting (directory structure-like) URIs: For example, http://someHOST/photos/2010/05/27/{id}

   d. Use MIME types and HTTP Accept: RESt-ful services usually use the common content types application/json or application/xml.

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About soumya chattopadhyay
I live and work in Seattle, WA. I work with Microsoft technologies, and I'm especially interested in C#.

4 Responses to WCF Simplified Part 9: SOAP, WSDL, and REST

  1. Serhiy says:

    Thank you for simple and short, but very usefull post!

  2. 11. This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!

  3. I get pleasure from, result in I found exactly what I used to be looking for. You’ve ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  4. Raj says:

    The blog sounds good. I would appreciate if could provide more detailed example for using HTTP GET with Soap 1.2?

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