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The Future of Web Based Data Access: OData

The Future of Web Based Data Access: OData

May 23, 2012 0 Comments
Ten years ago, getting your data usually meant fetching data from a database which was secured inside your company. Also, it was typically fetched through some tool interface or a compiled application of some sort (Java, C, etc.) using a database driver (usually ODBC or JDBC, OLEDB, ADO, etc.).
My, how times have changed.
Now your data lives on a home server, is synced to the cloud and mobile devices, and even lives in cloud based SaaS applications. Data is accessible as web services for everything ranging from you favorite recipes to what's on TV tonight. The web has given rise to an enormous amount of data being exposed as a service, and getting to all this disparate data often involves different APIs, different languages, and uses different points of access. This is where the Open Data Protocol (OData) comes in. According to Microsoft:
"The purpose of the Open Data protocol[i] (hereafter referred to as OData) is to provide a REST-based protocol for CRUD-style operations (Create, Read, Update and Delete) against resources exposed as data services. A “data service” is an endpoint where there is data exposed from one or more “collections” each with zero or more “entries”, which consist of typed named-value pairs" -Open Data Protocol by Example
All this talk of a unified standard to access data reminds me where we were 20 years ago with early database management systems and ODBC. There were lots of different databases and each database vendor had different ways to access that data and different ways to query that data - a royal pain for anyone trying to write applications and re-use code. The aim of OData is the same as other standards based APIs we've seen over the years, but this time it is to unify and simplify data access in a web based world.
"The Open Data Protocol (OData) is a Web protocol for querying and updating data that provides a way to unlock your data and free it from silos that exist in applications today. OData does this by applying and building upon Web technologies such as HTTPAtom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub) and JSON to provide access to information from a variety of applications, services, and stores. The protocol emerged from experiences implementing AtomPub clients and servers in a variety of products over the past several years.  OData is being used to expose and access information from a variety of sources including, but not limited to, relational databases, file systems, content management systems and traditional Web sites." - OData.org
DataDirect has always been at the forefront of standards development. We were on the original ANSI SQL and ODBC committees, the JDBC/SDO/JPA Expert Groups, and are now part of the OData OASIS group as well. As the "Switzerland of Data Access" we're not interested in making proprietary extensions to any APIs for a particular data store; our goal is to ensure that the API is the best it can be for the application writers out there who need an advocate at the table. We seek to help make the API it's best so the programmers can create some awesome applications.
Here at DataDirect, we're excited to be a part of a new standard and look forward to what the future holds for standardizing data access in the cloud. You'll have existing BI tools that need ODBC access or JDBC access to OData feeds and there will also be a need to quickly create OData feeds/producers for different data stores that may exist in your enterprise so it can be accessed anywhere from any device in a secure manner; we're researching solutions to these problems today as the huge base of existing software applications that rely on ODBC and JDBC converge with the cloud and web based data stores to become something completely new. Data access has always been a fun place to work, and will only become a more interesting space over the next few years. I can't wait to see where it leads us!
Jesse Davis

Jesse Davis

As Senior Director of Research & Development, Jesse is responsible for the daily operations, product development initiatives and forward looking research for Progress DataDirect. Jesse has spent nearly 20 years creating enterprise data products and has served as an expert on several industry standards including JDBC, J2EE, DRDA and OData. Jesse holds a bachelor of science degree in Computer Engineering from North Carolina State university.

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