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API Integration: GraphQL vs. gRPC vs. REST: Choosing the Right API

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In software applications today, there are many API protocols that developers can provide data or integrate into their applications. Although only REST API comes to mind first, there are multiple API protocols that differ from REST APIs. Developers choose the right and suitable API protocols they will integrate into their systems during the API integration process, especially in accordance with their business processes.

Recently, developers frequently use gRPC and GraphQL API protocols apart from REST API. These API protocols, which are increasingly used, do not meet every need of developers in business processes. So an API protocol cannot meet every need efficiently. In this article, we will take a more detailed look at REST, gRPC, and GraphQL API protocols.

REST

rest for api integration

Web-based applications use REST (Representational State Transfer) as a powerful architectural style for data transfer. Additionally, REST provides an approach where delegate-based interactions are performed on resources. One of the fundamental principles of REST is that a resource can be accessed using a unique identifier (URI). Furthermore, it emphasizes that data representing the state of the resource is transferred.

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It is based on the HTTP protocol and performs operations on resources using HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, etc.). Each resource is identified by a unique URI and operations that can be performed on it are indicated through these URIs.

Pros

  • This API is simple and easy to understand.
  • It is based on the HTTP protocol and uses existing infrastructure.
  • It can use features that HTTP provides, such as caching, session management, and security.
  • Platform and language independent.
  • It has a large user base and community.

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Cons

  • It may require multiple requests to retrieve data.
  • It may not be suitable in situations that require complex data structures.
  • Backward compatibility can be difficult when requirements change.
  • REST APIs can be restrictive in situations associated with certain database operations.

When to Choose REST?

  • Where you want to use the existing HTTP infrastructure and generally conform to the web standard.
  • If simplicity and ease of use are important factors, consider choosing RESTful API.
  • When you want to leverage the features offered by HTTP, including caching, session management, and security, RESTful API is a suitable choice.
  • If you are in search of a platform and language-independent solution, RESTful API is worth considering.
  • When you are seeking a large developer community and extensive support, RESTful API is a favorable option.

Explore more REST APIs for your next development:

ipstack – API to Locate and identify website visitors by IP address

weatherstack – real-time & historical world weather data API

numverify – global phone number validation & lookup JSON API

fixer – foreign exchange rates and currency conversion JSON API

GraphQL

graphql text with a blue background color

GraphQL is an API calling protocol used as a data query and manipulation language. Client applications can optimize data exchange by using it to specifically request the data they need. Thus, it avoids high traffic. Developed as an alternative to traditional RESTful APIs, GraphQL enables clients to retrieve data from multiple data sources with a single API request.

The structure called “schema” forms the core component of GraphQL. The schema includes all available data types, relationships, and operations. Using the GraphQL query language, the client quickly and easily queries the desired data over this schema. In addition, the client can make requests by specifying only the data fields, relationships, and depth it needs. So, GraphQL avoids the issue of excessive data fetching and allows the client to fully control the data.

Pros

  • GraphQL allows the client side to specifically request the data it needs. This prevents excessive or incomplete data intake and reduces data traffic.
  • When you need to get data from multiple sources, GraphQL allows you to get that data in a single query with client-side aggregation.
  • GraphQL offers flexibility in ensuring backward compatibility with changes made to the API. While keeping existing fields, it is possible to add new fields.

Cons

  • Compared to O REST, GraphQL is a more complex query language and therefore may require more initial learning.
  • GraphQL queries are generally more processor-intensive than RESTful APIs and can create more server-side load.
  • It has limited community support.

When to Choose GraphQL?

  • In situations where it is necessary to deliver data tailored to the specific needs of the client, choosing GraphQL is beneficial.
  • When the focus is on optimizing performance and avoiding unnecessary or incomplete data retrieval, GraphQL is a suitable choice.
  • In cases where backward compatibility is a requirement, it is possible to add new fields while preserving the existing ones.

gRPC

grpc text with a blue background color

The gRPC stands for Google Remote Procedure Call. It is an open-source communication protocol used to communicate with the remote server. Google developed this protocol with a primary focus on performance, efficiency, and multilingual support.

The gRPC protocol is based on a client-server model. In this model, the client initiates a request to call a specific service on the server. Subsequently, the server handles the request and sends back a response to the client. Communication between the client and server occurs over HTTP/2 and leverages the capabilities provided by this protocol. Notably, HTTP/2 supports multiple requests and responses over a single connection. Additionally, it offers the ability to compress the data stream, resulting in efficient communication with reduced bandwidth usage.

Pros

  • The gRPC provides low latency and high throughput using the HTTP/2 protocol. It provides fast and efficient data exchange between clients and servers.
  • The gRPC supports multiple programming languages. As a result, developers can establish communication between clients and servers written in those languages.
  • That client and server can open a single message or stream to each other. The two streams run independently of each other. The client and server applications can read and write messages in any order.

Cons

  • The gRPC messages can be difficult for humans to read and understand. This can complicate debugging and error analysis processes.
  • We cannot use gRPC directly for calls on browsers. This prevents direct use, especially in web applications. Therefore, REST is still considered the best solution for external calls.
  • The gRPC integration may take a little more time than the REST API.

When to Choose gRPC?

  • Developers can prefer applications requiring high performance. It is a suitable option, especially for big data exchange or real-time systems.
  • Developers can prefer when it is necessary to communicate between different programming languages. The gRPC provides easy integration between clients and servers written in different languages as it provides multilingual support.

Conclusion

As a result, there are API protocols that developers can use for almost any need. With the appropriate API protocol selection, developers gain many advantages in API development and integration processes. Furthermore, businesses and developers can easily fulfill many of their requirements in this way.

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FAQs

Q: How Can I Choose the Correct API (Application Programming Interface) Protocol for API Integration?

A: Choosing the right API protocol for API integration with an API integration platform or any integration platform may vary depending on your project’s requirements, availability, and goals. The criteria to consider when choosing an API protocol are as follows:

  • Functionality
  • Performance
  • Security
  • Compatibility
  • Community Support
  • Future Perspective
  • API Documentation

Q: What Are the API Protocols Available for an API Integration?

A: Today, there are many API protocols that can be integrated into projects with API integration tools or API integration platforms. Some of these protocols are as follows:

  • OData
  • GraphQL
  • REST
  • gRPC

Q: Within the Realm of GraphQL, What Does API Integration Refers Specifically Imply in Terms of Data Retrieval?

A: In GraphQL, API integration refers to the process of connecting with external APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and ingesting and processing data. Unlike traditional RESTful APIs, GraphQL allows clients to request the data they want in a single request. The client can retrieve the requested data by specifying the required fields and relationships.

Q: Does the API Integrations Power Processes to Keep Data in Sync Between Applications?

A: Yes, API integrations powered by a middleware integration tool enable processes to keep data in sync between software applications. By using a single API integration, these middleware integration tools facilitate the seamless exchange of data between different applications.

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