The Black Book of Identity Access Mgmt
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    Entries in REST API Oracle cloud authentication (1)



    I’m old. I started grammar school in the 60’s. Like my peers, I sat through a lot of wacky educational theories. There were plenty of peer-to-peer exercises, which I hated because I was a nerd who really couldn’t stand to be scrutinized by people who couldn’t read out loud to the class.

    And in the early 1970’s at my school, the powers that be knocked huge entrances through the cinder block walls between classrooms. These gaping holes, large as a garage door, allowed us to change classes without going into the hallways. But the stated reason for this was “the free flow of ideas and cooperation.” I still have that in a pamphlet from back in the day.

    This is of course some pretty silly hippie-dippie stuff. Free flow of ideas? Okay, when I’m in math class, I don’t need telepathy floating in from the English class next door. This is a high-level, optimistic notion not backed up by any kind of research or even common sense.

    My own kids’ high school suffered from this kind of unwalled classroom. In some areas of the school, not the whole place, there were no real walls, and no ceiling, just partitions between class areas. This means just one thing: distraction. Noise. The occasional projectile arcing from next door. An inability to concentrate on a lit test while the history class next door is watching a documentary on World War II. Only now, a few years after my kids were both out of there, the authorities have decided to wall up these open spaces to end decades of stupidity.

    It’s fine to encourage a free flow of idea and interaction. But when you’re the adults, you invoke a wee bit of control, or at least some guidance.

    And that’s how you find the true value in a programming interface known as REST – Representational State Transfer. It’s not cutting edge tech. REST has been around a while. REST is a form of API, but it’s got some excellent aspects to it that make it perfect for more closed, simplified, easily-secured micro-transactions.

    REST is terribly simple. It operates over HTTP, the language of the web. You can in fact launch a RESTful call from the address bar of your browser, if you’d like. You wouldn’t do B2B that way, but I’m making a point. So shut up.

    REST interfaces are based on resources. I ask this Thing for other Things, and I get them back, assuming I’m duly authorized. REST is stateless, it’s a smash and grab. Garbage in, garbage out. No heartbeat. So no pesky network traffic. If you want to fake state, return a hyperlink to the requester that they can click and come right back in for more stuff. And because it’s resource-based, it’s very focused. Instead of broad queries, REST interfaces tend to concentrate on mini-transactions. There’s also the notion of security by obscurity. The requesting party doesn’t see the database or table or talking gnome that holds the information. They only know, they send some parameters, they get back some parameters, usually in the form of JSON, who killed the dragon and took the fleece.

    REST is the common tongue of the Cloud. Everybody who’s anybody puts out a REST interface. This allows you to programmatically talk to them. Every time I do this blog, an RSS feed goes to a REST call that automatically tweets for me. Because I don’t have time to tweet. There’s always cool stuff on TV. And beer.

    Another great value is not having to build a visual interface. “Here’s my REST API. You call on that, junior, and write your own damn GUI.”

    I recently did a roadshow for Oracle, helping the plug their REST library for their database. Very simplistic, but actually a very good entryway for people trying to learn REST for the first time, and great for quickie data-sharing on a casual level. Oracle Rest Data Services, or ORDS. Look it up.

    My employer has built robust REST APIs for a number of customers, including Oracle themselves, to expose the functions in their identity and access products, as well as their latest LDAP offering. Not only does it provide a fantastic developer’s platform, it also helps customers build interfaces that bridge the gap between on-premise and cloud, as Oracle and everybody else migrates there.

    I know, MANY of you already know about REST. But after the tour I just concluded, I found that there are still an awful lot of influencers out there who have heard the word but didn’t know what it meant. With Cloud in all our futures, it’s time to get past the buzz term and onto that leading edge.