Monday, June 8, 2020

GraphQL vs OData

In case you didn’t noticed yet, I’m a big fan of GraphQL. One of the questions I get a lot (especially from .NET developers) is what the difference is with OData?

At first sight they have a lot of similarities and partially try to achieve the same goal, but there are some reasons why I prefer GraphQL over OData.

Let’s first have a look at the “official” descriptions:

From odata.org:

OData (Open Data Protocol) is an ISO/IEC approved, OASIS standard that defines a set of best practices for building and consuming RESTful APIs. OData helps you focus on your business logic while building RESTful APIs without having to worry about the various approaches to define request and response headers, status codes, HTTP methods, URL conventions, media types, payload formats, query options, etc. OData also provides guidance for tracking changes, defining functions/actions for reusable procedures, and sending asynchronous/batch requests.

OData RESTful APIs are easy to consume. The OData metadata, a machine-readable description of the data model of the APIs, enables the creation of powerful generic client proxies and tools.

From graphql.org:

GraphQL is a query language for APIs and a runtime for fulfilling those queries with your existing data. GraphQL provides a complete and understandable description of the data in your API, gives clients the power to ask for exactly what they need and nothing more, makes it easier to evolve APIs over time, and enables powerful developer tools.

Sounds familiar?

I can understand that people who have used OData will think it does the same thing, but what makes it different?

Decoupling

OData brought the power of SQL to your URI’s at  the cost of a high coupling. The OData ecosystem was meant to replace your existing REST api’s and your implementation had a direct technical coupling. GraphQL is more like a backend for frontend where you can bring multiple REST api’s together in one uniform interface.

Scaling

Although technical feasible to create one OData schema for your whole organization, it would be hard to build and maintain. Compare it with GraphQL Federation where it becomes easy to create a single data graph for your whole organization.

Adoption

Although OData is an open standard and there are some other big names next to Microsoft who jumped on the bandwagon, I mostly encounter OData usage at companies that use SAP and/or .NET.  GraphQL has a much broader adoption across multiple ecosystems and platforms.

I’ve used OData in the passed and I really liked it in the context of WCF Data Services and Silverlight(RIP) but the flexibility, rich ecosystem and amazing tools and solutions(e.g. Apollo) of GraphQL should be enough to convince you…

Remark: I can recommend the following read to go in more detail about the differences: https://jeffhandley.com/2018-09-13/graphql-is-not-odata