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Four Big Problems DreamFactory Solves

Posted by Bill Appleton

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Fri, Jul 19, 2013

BillAppletonThe DreamFactory Services Platform (DSP) solves four big problems that plague mobile application developers.

First, we provide an easy to use REST API that covers a wide variety of backend services. Many server side assets like SQL databases don't have a client addressable API. In cases like this we build out the entire API for the backend system. Other server side assets might have an API, but they don't support JSON data, so we translate everything into JSON for ease of use. Lastly, different systems from different vendors tend to have wildly different or technically challenging network protocols and authentication methods. Go look at the interfaces for MongoDB, S3, Azure Tables, SimpleDB, SendGrid, MySQL, and CloudFiles. They all work differently. So we simplify all those systems into a single REST API that can be used from the client.

Second, we hide the master credentials for all these different systems and expose their functionality through single sign-on with user roles and permissions. This means you never have to store or use a master credential from the client device where it can be stolen by a hacker. Instead you have a single user authenticate in to our service architecture where they are given limited capabilities to read, write, create, or update the various data sources. All of this is controlled by their user role. And if they lose their mobile device the system admin can instantly kill their session, protecting the backend systems.

Third, we solve the originating host problem for HTML5 developers. Modern browsers limit web application communication to the originating server. This is a security measure designed to protect private networks behind the firewall. There are some exceptions to the rule, but in general HTML5 applications can always communicate with their originating host, while talking to other networks is problematic. So the DSP provides a single point of communication that combines data sources from other servers. By the way, your DSP also provides extensive application hosting options. Your CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files are stored right on the same platform as the other services for originating host access. If you need to use the REST API from another domain we can also do that with programmable CORs access that can be set up by the administrator.

The DSP also makes life easier for native client technologies. When a native client attempts to communicate with a whole bunch of different servers bad things tend to happen. The client must open network communications with each backend system, handle a bunch of authentication protocols, load and manage all the data, handle network errors and latency, etc. This adds a lot of complexity to the application, especially on a mobile device with intermittent connectivity and limited bandwidth. But with a DSP your native client can communicate to a single endpoint and consume a single REST API that combines everything needed for application runtime.

Lastly, the DSP provides administration for all of the different users, applications, and services that are needed. You can control which users see which applications, and which applications can use which services. You can use the DSP Admin Panel to create sophisticated user role and permission systems. For example, the sales, marketing, and executive personnel at a company might each log in and see a very different view of the applications and data. For a simpler scenario without a log in, you could create a "read only" user role that delivers all the various documents and database information that the application uses. The only actual user log in would be for the system administrator who curates the media stored on the server.

Taken together, these four capabilities form the powerful backbone of the DreamFactory Services Platform. We are working hard to solve these backend problems so that you can focus on the front end. The result is high performance mobile applications written by much smaller development teams with reduced time to value.

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