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Code Branch

The code of the DSapce 7 REST API have been merged in the master branch:

Code Representation of a DSpace Object

DSpace API Object (hibernate): org.dspace.content.DSpaceObject

This is the representation of an object from the DSpace database. Since DSpace 6, this object is populated with hibernate.

Rest Object:

This is a plain old java object (pojo) representation of a DSpace object.

Coding the REST object

Hateoas Object:

This representation of an object allows for 

  1. the embedding of other DSpace objects within the object.  Embedded objects are always linked.
    1. property returns a RestModel object
  2. linking to other external DSpace objects
    1. property returns a RestModel.  Property is marked with @JsonIgnore annotation.

The base class in this package uses reflection to identify attributes that are actual links to other REST resources.

If an attribute is of type RestModel, then the code will

  1. wrap the linked REST resource inside a DSpaceResource (so to have the identifier, self link, and links to other resources). The wrapper is actually created by the Repository responsible of the specific resource (ItemRepository, BitstreamRepository, etc.) 
      This give a chance to add custom logic for extra links in specific resource
  2. put the wrapper in the embedded section 
  3. clean the attribute (not sure if useful/required/right): 

Converter Object:

Convert between the REST representation of an object and the Hibernate representation of an object.

Coding a converter object

Repository Object:

Provide repository interface functions that return and manage REST representations of DSpace objects. It should provide methods to

  • get a specific instance of the object (findOne)
  • get all the instances, paginated (findAll)
  • save an instance (save)
  • delete an instance (delete)

Additional methods should be added following the conventions defined in the subsequent paragraphs.

Repository Object: search methods

Any additional methods that return a subset of the collection exposed by the repository should be annotated with @SearchRestMethod annotation so to be discovered as "search" capabilities of the repository and automatically exposed over the /search endpoint sub-path of the resource type (i.e. /community/search/top).

The java method in the repository class can be named in any way, the sub-path used to build the rest endpoint is by default equals to the method name but can be forced to a specific value using the name parameter in the annotation

The java method must return a Page of rest resources or a single resource but can accept any kind of arguments. If the method has a Pageable argument it is automatically bind, the other argument are bind from HTTP parameters using the Spring Converter Framework but they need to be annotated with the @Param annotation where the name attribute define the name of the HTTP parameter (see an example here)

Repository Object: massive conditional update/deletion

TBD. Probably it could be useful to introduce an approach similar to the one adopted for find methods with a common /bulk sub-path

Linked Repository Object (TODO - proposal)

Resources are typically linked with other resources of the same of different type. For example a collection is linked with the items that belong to the collection. It is not effective to include a list of items in the collection object because it doesn't scale. Also if the Hateoas object can wrap the list adding pagination on the server side we will have hit the full list. This mean that the linked objects need to be retrieved using optimized and paginated methods. This could be done essentially in two ways:

  1. the Hateoas object adds a link, say items in the CollectionResource that refers to a search methods in the item repository (i.e. /items/search/findByCollection). The limit of this approach is that update of association couldn't be addressed on the same endpoint breking one of the REST principle related to the URL structures and HTTP verbs. It doesn't make sense to send a POST to the endpoint  /items/search/findByCollection?id=xxxx to map a new item under the collection xxx. The same issue arise if we work on the other side of the relation, i.e. if we put the focus on the single item we will end with the endpoint /collections/search/findByItem?id=xxx.
    This mean that the search endpoint should be used for read-only relations or "custom views" over a relation.
  2. the link is managed directly at the resource level. In our example this mean that the items link will refers to an endpoint like /collections/:uuid/items 
    This bring the issue to decide where put the implementation of the retrieval logic. It could be placed in the Repository Object assigned to the specific type (for example CollectionRestRepository) or in a separate class. According to the Repository Pattern ( a repository is dedicated to a single Business Entity so this should be avoid. Thinking to the relation in terms of a separate Business Entity, it makes sense to define a specific repository for this Entity, the Linked Repository Object. This is the approach that we are currently exploring to solve  Unable to locate Jira server for this macro. It may be due to Application Link configuration. Unable to locate Jira server for this macro. It may be due to Application Link configuration. Unable to locate Jira server for this macro. It may be due to Application Link configuration. Unable to locate Jira server for this macro. It may be due to Application Link configuration.

In Unable to locate Jira server for this macro. It may be due to Application Link configuration.  we face with the issue to list all the items available under a specific browse index. Also if this could look as a good example for the strategy #1 (it is a read-only relation) implementing it as a search methods in the ItemRestRepository will mean couple the Item, core data model, with the browse system that is instead something additional maybe a plugin or extra feature. Using a separate repository for the relation will automatically add an uniform support for update and deletion operations over the relation and also will help to lazy load additional information during the wrapping of the object in its HAL Resource representational. Indeed the HAL wrapper could inspect the object class and, if a relation is requested by the projection to be included in the serialization, the HAL wrapper can invoke the same repository methods invoked when the specific relation endpoint is hit. This will assure consistency and avoid code duplication

Managing Object Initialization (TODO)

  • When referencing a linked object, how do we control the initialization/load of reference object?
    Proposal: as manage partial object is a common scenario in REST implementation regardless to the representation format used (HAL in our case). It makes sense to add support for this capability directly on the RestModel base class. It should be able to discriminate which properties are really null and which are uninitialized allowing the HAL Wrapper to lazy load relation if needed (see Linked Repository Object). The Converter object should set only properties that are already initialized in the Hibernate object avoiding to hit hibernate lazy loading. If the property is required to be included in the requested projection Hibernate Lazy load should be used only if there are not a defined Linked Repository Object able to manage the requested relation

Build the REST Controller(s)

The goal is to have a pluggable infrastructure so that new endpoint can be added implementing the previous relevant classes without the explicitly need to add new Spring MVC controllers. This assure easy and maintenable uniform implementation of the behavior described in the REST contract in terms of HTTP Verbs meaning, ETAG, URL structure, etc.

Up to now we have two REST controller

    It is responsible to produce the root HAL document listing all the defined endpoints of the REST API
  • ALPSController (TODO). 
    It will be probably introduced to add support for the ALPS protocol, see  Unable to locate Jira server for this macro. It may be due to Application Link configuration.

    It is the single point of entry of all the REST requests related to resources. It delegates the retrieval and save logic to the Repositories, HAL wrappers and Converters previously described.

For specific functionalities it will be probably easier to create a separate controller instead to force the use of the Repository model. This is true for features that don't deal with a specific resource like the ROOT HAL Document, ALPS, the global search (Discovery) 

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  1. Should we migrate the contents of this page to the Rest 7 Contract repo?

    1. I don't think so. The REST Contract is independent from how we decide to implement it. I'm going to add a link to this page from the Rest7Contract README

  2. Regarding list relationships in a REST object, I think it would be useful to enumerate (in a page on the Rest7Contract) all of the one-to-many relationships in the system and note any behavior assumptions about list relationships.

    Given the guidance to rely on lazy loading/pagination when possible, we should explicitly validate that assumption for each relationship type.  For instance, the number of hierarchy notes in an item breadcrumb trail is probably quite small and pagination could add complexity. In reverse, the number of items under a collection will definitely need pagination.

    1. IMHO relationships (aka HAL _links) should be enumerated in the documentation of the single endpoint as detail of the response. I.e. under the /items endpoint documentation I expect to see the list of all the relation that an item could have. Put all the relationships on a separate page could be unconvenient as I need to go in two different position to learn all I need about a single endpoint or worst we need to maintain the same information in two places. I'm also hopeful that we can achieve at some point automatic generation of the documentation from the REST unit test (see Unable to locate Jira server for this macro. It may be due to Application Link configuration. ) in this case we will end to have the information about the links listed under the single endpoint.

      About the lazy loading: please note that I suggest to AVOID the use of lazy loading. I mandate pagination for anything as it is easier to implement a common behavior on the client side and we cannot really make assumption. For instance we typically see collections with many items inside but we don't expect to have an item mapped in so many collections but of course you can imagine use case where this could be useful. Breadcrumb is not related to pagination as it is more an example of deeply nesting

  3. For the section "Managing Object Initialization (TODO)", it would be good to confirm that the documented projections will be supported efficiently in hibernate:

    1. in the current implementation the Repository classes don't receive the projection this mean that optimization cannot occur.

      For instance if you ask for communities and you want to include subcommunities and collections it could be possible to make a single HQL to retrieve all the information. The current approach will result in 1 query + 1 query /each community to retrieve the subommunities + 1 query /each collection to retrieve collections.

      We can change that if frequently needed or we can optimize specific endpoint overriding the default REST controller when needed. I suggest to keep that as is until we face with a first concrete need (YAGNI).

  4. The section "Converter Object" seems outdated:  fromModel() and toModel() have disappeared, and convert() seems to have replaced fromModel().

    I wonder what else has changed in the last four years.