Today i want to talk a bit about “Relativity”, a new feature we’re shipping with Data Abstract this month (and which is actually available as “tech preview”in the current Winter 2009 releases).
“Relativity” is, simply put, a standalone server application that can be used to host Data Abstract schemas and serve data. In essence, it provides the complete Data Abstract middle tier, in a precompiled box and ready run. This offers several benefits, not the least of which are:
- No need to build your own. Relativity provides all the power and abstraction of a true Data Abstract middle tier server, without you actually having to create, build, and deploy your own executable. This allows you to concentrate on the client development. It also is really handy for prototyping, if you just want to have database server to talk to, without much work, even if you plan to eventually implementing your own custom server.
- Build on Data Abstract for .NET. .NET is platform with the most advanced version of DA – it supports our powerful DA SQL execution engine, and other features not available on all platforms. “Relativity” is being made available to all users of Data Abstract, so whether you’re a developer using .NET, Delphi, or Xcode, you can now write clients against Relativity that take full advantage of these features.
But let’s go and take a more detailed technical look at Relativity.
Relativity is a server application, so it does not provide any user interface. You can deploy a Relativity server in several ways, including:
- Running it as a regular user application, on Windows.
- Installing it as a Windows service.
- Running it as a Unix daemon with the
mono-service2tool, on Mac and Linux.
- Running it as a menubar item, on Mac.
Regardless of how you deploy and run it, Relativity will start making it’s Data Abstract services available on (by default) port 7099. But of course before it can start serving actual data, it will need to be configured with what data to serve. That is done thru the Relativity Server Admin tool, which is currently available for Windows (but versions for both Mac and iPhone are in the works).
When you first start it, the Admin tool will look something like this:
Select any of the servers (here, “VEMMY” is the one instance running in my Windows VM), to connect and get more options.
Where it gets more interesting is the third node – Domains. This is where you configure the meat of the services Relativity is providing.
Each Domain corresponds to what typically would be a separate Data Abstract middle tier server. Domains are completely abstracted from one another and Relativity allows you to host as many separate domains as needed. With that, a single Relativity server can replace multiple DA servers, be it for related to completely independent applications or projects.
As you can see, i have three domains set up in my server, one for “BC7”, our new bug tracking system (using a PostgreSQL database running on our Xserve build server), one for “RemObjectsCom”, the database that drives our website (Microsoft SQL Server, running on the Windows server that hosts our website), and finally “OneSpace”, the database for a personal iPad project i am working on.
As we drill into a specific domain, you start seeing more things that will be familiar to you as a Data Abstract developer. Each domain can contain one or more Schemas – which correspond directly to .daSchema files or TDASchema components as you know them. You can manage schemas right there in the Admin tool, or directly launch Schema Modeler to edit the schema in question:
Another interesting part is the Login node. Relativity provides several options for handling authentication from client applications for data access (something you would normally need to manually implement, in a standalone DA server): in addition to relying on a static list of allowed username/password combinations, you can also choose to use a data table or command defined in one of the domain’s schemas to verify users (as i do in the example shown below) or query an external LDAP server for login.
Once you have Relativity set up to serve your data, your client application(s) can access it like any other Data Abstract server.
The only slight difference is that, since a Relativity server can host more than one domain, you need to tell the server which domain to access, by simply passing an additional
Domain parameter as your login string, as in
You will also want to select which Schema to query. in regular DA applications, each schema usually has its own DataService, so keeping in line with that, Relativity allows you to append a schema name to the ServiceName property of your Remote Service. Instead of using
DataService, simply use
DataService.<em>DomainName</em>. (Alternatively, you can also pass a Schema to
So, this has been a brief introduction to Relativity – i hope you found it useful.
You can try out the tech preview of Relativity now, and the official release will be part of what we ship at the end of this month. I’m looking forward to your thoughts and feedback!
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