DreamFactory 6.0 Ends Web App Development Nightmares

Development software lets even nonprogrammers develop useful interfaces for Web services.

March 26, 2004

4 Min Read
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DreamFactory is available in developer, professional or enterprise editions. All three take advantage of the same run-time engine. The only difference between professional and enterprise is project management--professional assumes the project repository is local, whereas enterprise offers a Web-based project-management interface, allowing for team development and enterprisewide sharing.

Licensing is controlled by the run-time, which requests authentication from a DreamFactory license file on the server. Every run-time installation has a 30-day unrestricted license, and applications won't run after 60 days without a valid license file.

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DREAMFACTORY 6.0, $25 per user per month, $50 per developer per month. DreamFactory Software, (888) 399-3732, (408) 399-7454. www.dreamfactory.com

Project security is not a function of DreamFactory. Permissions to create, edit and delete projects must be designated on the server housing the repository. DreamFactory says the simplest method of securing projects is via access-control lists, such as .htaccess for Apache--but to truly succeed in the enterprise, it will have to do better. WebDAV (Web-Distributed Authoring and Versioning) integration would be a welcome addition.The development environment includes an extensive array of GUI controls. Among these are the usual HTML suspects--buttons, text fields, and radio, check and list boxes. Also on hand are components generally offered only for fat-client development--tabbed windows, as well as graphical elements such as charts, graphs and simple vector-based objects.

What's more, you can extend the GUI components, develop composite components or customize behavior using Virtual Basic, JavaScript or DreamFactory's own DFScript. But for simple applications, you won't have to write any code.

Living the Dream

DreamFactory 6.0 is available for download from the company's Web site. After downloading, it's a no-brainer to install and fire up.

The intuitive drag-and-drop interface let me create an application quickly, using Web services pulled from a list at www.xmethods. com. To check interoperability, I experimented with two Web services--one .Net, the other Axis.To use the .Net-based "funny quote" service I selected, I needed a button and a place to display the quote. DreamFactory differs from most other development tools in that it doesn't require you to write code in order to hook the two components together. The software's Web services wizard simply asks for the URL of the WSDL, pulling the relevant operations and arguments from it and letting you choose where to display the returned quote.

Next, I tried an Axis-based Web service that promised to check my e-mail. This called for a bit more than the .Net-based quote service, requiring a host name, a user name and a password. But again, DreamFactory made setup a snap. All I had to do was drag three text fields onto the window and name them intelligently. I built the interface in less than five minutes--doing the job in Java or .Net would have taken me half an hour.

Not everything was perfect, however. I developed a Web service to provide a list of all ports on my Cisco 2916 and another one to show the link and protocol status of a specific port. Next, I tried to develop a DreamFactory application that would pull the list of ports and then display the status of a particular port once a user selected it. Unfortunately, I found that DreamFactory offers no elegant way to receive a list from a Web service and display it in a list-box widget. Hard-coding the list of known ports into the list box and letting the user choose one to retrieve its status worked as expected, but pulling the initial list of ports was problematic and appeared to require coding.

But shortcomings aside, DreamFactory stands head and shoulders above competing products. Although it may require some coding for more complex projects, DreamFactory is sure to lay most of your Web service problems to rest.

Lori MacVittie is a NETWORK COMPUTING senior technology editor working in our Green Bay, Wis., labs. Write to her at [email protected].0

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