DreamFactory 6.35 wakes up Web services

Development environment blends interactive elements with Web services data delivery to improve static UIs

End-users don't care about distributed application bases, data sources, or Web services. They simply want their information served up in the most seamless and productive means for their workflow.

DreamFactory Enterprise 6.35 aims to do just that.

It delivers a run-time engine and development environment that enables companies to build componentized, interactive XML Web services front ends for their users.

Whether deployed on their own, launched from a URL, or embedded into existing static Web pages with ActiveX, DreamFactory applications make for a smarter UI experience. They maintain all static interface elements on the client and only update changed data elements, using SOAP calls over HTTP to the source.

This process eliminates the need for a page refresh after every update, delivering richer clients that behave more like local applications, even from within a Web browser. DreamFactory 6.35 does a good job of combining multiple datasets into a single, congruous interface.

The product lacks some of the transactional fortitude afforded by true rich Internet application vendors that rely on a middleware broker. It also falls short on direct integration prowess -- DreamFactory presumes Web services readiness on your back end.

But with no proprietary server to set up, wizard-driven data binding, and an easy-to-use IDE that facilitates cut-and-paste component reuse, I could quickly build interfaces for aggregating and updating data with very little effort.

The IDE consists of drag-and-drop simulated GUI graphics, from check boxes and buttons to menus and tables, that can be added, customized, and bound to data sources via WSDL. It supports a variety of media types, including SOAP styles and REST (Representational State Transfer), and can be customized using VBScript and JavaScript.

Deploying my DreamFactory apps was just as straightforward. Final applications can be cleaned up and locked down, removing unnecessary pallets from the interface and customizing security permissions between virtual machine and system. Apps are then compressed and uploaded to the Web server, ready for access.

After gaining access to the app, the user receives a one-time run-time download (a 400KB image that sets up a secure virtual machine on the client) and the DreamFactory application package. Subsequent uses poll the server-side application and re-download the package only when a code-base change is detected -- making for easy update rollouts. Stand-alone DreamFactory apps can even be deployed directly via e-mail.

This is the first official DreamFactory release, and it has a little growing to do. It is currently a Windows- and Mac-only tool, lacking support for Linux or any mobile devices.

At times, the development interface felt more like a box of Tinkertoys than a sturdy, enterprise-grade Erector Set. Help facilities were rather lightweight, and WSDL compatibility could use a spit shine, which is planned for its next release. With limited inherent security and transactional savvy, this might be a hard sell for companies seeking a more complete, service-oriented architecture solution.

Caveats notwithstanding, DreamFactory 6.35 makes a good showing. For its intended purpose, it's the easiest tool on the market today for building and deploying Web services interfaces.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Interoperability (20.0%)
Implementation (10.0%)
Security (10.0%)
Ease of use (20.0%)
Features (30.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
DreamFactory Enterprise 6.35 7.0 8.0 6.0 9.0 6.0 7.0 7.1