Why You Shouldn't Build Your Own REST API

Table of contents


What’s the story behind the DreamFactory Services Platform? We make applications ourselves on cloud platforms like Salesforce, Windows Azure, and AWS. Every new application we created for our customers required the same manual steps:

  • Set up backend databases, schema, and file storage
  • Create a user management system with secure authentication
  • Design and create backend services for data, files, and external APIs
  • Write our own REST API to access all these services
  • Integrate the frontend application with these backend services
  • Test all of that integration end-to-end

Ouch! All that time spent creating the backend services and API took away valuable time creating the actual application that customers would be using everyday.

We searched for an open source solution that could solve this problem. Alas, it didn’t exist. So we decided to build it. We realized that other app developers faced the exact same problems and could benefit from our work. So it made perfect sense to open source it.

Many of our customers are large enterprises with sophisticated requirements, especially around security. The platform had to satisfy several goals:

  1. Dramatically simplify life for frontend developers. The platform should eliminate the need to write any server-side code.
  2. Support HTML5 and native mobile applications running on performance and bandwidth-constrained phones and tablets.
  3. Provide a comprehensive palette of backend services and a unified REST API to power sophisticated, data-driven applications at scale.
  4. Provide world-class security that large enterprises could adopt.
  5. Provide open source flexibility. A developer or sys admin should be able to install the DreamFactory software package in the cloud or on premise.

The unified REST API mentioned in goal 3 above is a key feature of the platform. Now you don’t have to write your own REST API. It’s automatically created for every backend service that your application needs.

The API includes 123 standard GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE calls for:

  • /user – 11 API calls for user authentication, registration, profiles, and sessions
  • /system – 45 API calls for managing apps, app groups, email, roles, services, and users
  • /app – 16 API calls for application containers, files, and folders
  • /db – 8 API calls for database CRUD operations
  • /doc – 16 API calls for document containers, files, and folders
  • /email – 1 API call to send email
  • /lib – 16 API calls for lib containers, files, and folders
  • /schema – 10 API calls for managing schema

And every time you add a new service, the corresponding REST API for that service is automatically created and documented.

For example, say you connect to a MongoDB database with DreamFactory.


The new API ‘/mongo’ is automatically created and documented. Presto, now you have a REST API to access your remote MongoDB database from the client!


Before you start building anything, spend 5 minutes browsing the API. The API is documented with an awesome tool called Swagger. Swagger lets you try out live API calls right in your browser.  It’s interactive, so you can quickly learn the capabilities of the API without writing a line of application code.

Try it out! You can browse the API in two places: on our website and in the API Documentation tab of the admin console.


Also check out Jason’s recent blog post on getting started with the DreamFactory API.

Have fun with the API and let us know what you think!