Consuming HTTP Services in Python Transcripts
Chapter: The service landscape
Lecture: Service type: SOAP

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0:00 Another thing that we might run into, especially little bit older services,
0:05 especially inside enterprises, inside these big companies,
0:09 they built a bunch of internet apps that they can connect together,
0:13 it's very likely that what you are going to run into is a Soap web service.
0:18 Now, in the early days of the 2000s, 2001, 2002,
0:22 Soap services were fairly ubiquitous for intranet communication.
0:28 And, of course, as Javascript grew and the internet grew in popularity
0:32 especially with regard to services, the HTTP services and Json Restful services
0:39 more or less edged Soap out, but it's very likely that you are going to run into
0:42 a Soap service if you are working with older systems inside of a company.
0:47 So it's really important that we talk about them here
0:50 because you don't want to have to switch technologies
0:53 just because you are talking to a old service, right,
0:56 so what's the deal with these Soap services, how does that work?
0:59 Well, it's basically HTTP traffic, the thing that is kind of an unusual is
1:02 every request, regardless of whether you are getting something
1:05 or you are updating something,
1:07 every request is a post which indicates some kind of action,
1:10 so here let's suppose we want to login and we are going to post to a single location
1:14 and this action header actually tells the service what to do,
1:18 and what we are going to send is a big blob of XML. It looks like this.
1:21 And the service is going to respond with another big blob of XML,
1:25 we are going to parse that apart back in our app.
1:28 Now, what are the benefits?
1:32 One of the things that is nice about these Soap services is they typically have
1:35 some kind of UI describing them,
1:38 and they also have UI that describes them for tooling,
1:41 so they are really built with the expectation, it's basically required
1:45 that at least one side of these, the fence, either your app or the Soap service
1:50 have some really strong tooling support to generate the stuff.
1:53 I go so far to say these are the easiest services to create and consume if,
1:58 and this is a huge if- if both sides of these arrows, your app and the service
2:05 have excellent tooling support for Soap services.
2:09 that's not the case with Python, and these are certainly not the best services,
2:14 that's why they are not very popular anymore,
2:17 but they do have a button press generate the server side, and client side tooling support,
2:21 and that way they make them easy but like I said, I don't think they are the best
2:25 and I definitely don't recommend using them if you can avoid them.
2:28 So what else is a drawback about Soap services, we talked about post,
2:31 and this post only behavior means that it basically breaks the architecture of the internet,
2:36 the internet is built around get, post, put, various HTTP verbs,
2:41 and only HTTP get is allowed to be cashed, and that makes proxies work better,
2:48 that makes local cashing work better, there is all sorts of scaleability benefits,
2:52 and other semantics around being able to support HTTP get
2:56 the most common way to access resources on the internet but Soap services
3:00 just entirely missed this, they just didn't even understand that HTTP verbs
3:06 meant a thing on the internet when they were created,
3:10 so everything is post which means a lot of the infrastructure benefits
3:13 of being an HTTP service are lost.
3:17 It requires tooling, so things like Javascript and Python
3:20 are the real disadvantage in working with these services, but that said,
3:23 we are going to cover some pretty cool stuff on working with them from Python if you must,
3:27 they are often focused on remote methods instead of remote resources,
3:32 so here we have a log in method rather than accessing something about our user
3:36 and that can lead to poorly designed services.
3:39 These Soap messages they exchange obviously they are bandwidth heavy
3:43 and while you technically can read them, if you must,
3:46 they are not really friendly to human beings, they are friendly to computers,
3:50 and they can be read by humans, but they are not what I would call readable.
3:55 Let's look at this Soap exchange, in detail.
3:58 So here I have an operation, imagine this is going to be called on a web service
4:03 that is a Soap service, so I want to take a number,
4:05 and I want to take a number and I want to double it,
4:09 I want to take an integer and double that integer, so how does this work?
4:11 Well, of course we want to send this as an HTTP post,
4:14 so what we are going to do when we call this, the tooling that we would have had to use
4:18 to somehow generate this service, would convert this action and this data
4:22 into what is called a Soap envelop.
4:25 So the Soap envelop is an XML namespace laden bit of XML
4:30 that is quite dreadful and you should stay away from it if you can.
4:34 But like I said, if you have to call these services,
4:36 being able to do it in Python is cool, so here you can see we have a Soap envelop,
4:40 and there is a Soap header and a Soap body,
4:43 the Soap body contains some parameter,
4:46 and that parameter's value you can see is 123.
4:49 So we are going to want to double the number 123.
4:52 It's going to go off to the server, via post, via HTTP, some parts you don't see here,
4:57 the action is actually stored in the header, it's going to process that,
5:01 and generate a response that comes back to us that is also a Soap envelope.
5:05 And this time the Soap body contains a double an integer response
5:09 which also has an integer and that integer's value is 246.
5:14 So you can see, yes, awesome, we doubled the number
5:17 and you can bet that the value returned from this function
5:22 very much returned 246 when we gave a 123.
5:25 But it took almost a kilobyte of data exchange just send the four bytes over,
5:31 the 123, and return the four bytes back, 246.
5:35 So, this is not very friendly to people, to the network,
5:39 there is lots of problems with it, but this is how Soap works.