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How OData can benefit your web project

We announced OData support in Webnodes a couple of weeks ago. Several customers have contacted us wondering how they can use OData on their Webnodes sites, so we decided to write a blog post on some possibilities. We’re very excited by the opportunities offered by OData.

First of all, the basics: What is OData? OData is a REST based open web protocol for sharing data in a standardized format for easy consumption by other systems. It uses well known web technologies like HTTP, AtomPub and JSON.

OData provides an entire query language directly in the URL. Having a query language in the url basically means that by changing the url, the data returned from an OData feed(endpoint) also changes. Being able to control what data you get back from the consumer side means that the OData feed has complete control over what parts of the content to use.

OData also offer more than just exposing content, it offers full CRUD support by using the different HTTP methods:

  • GET: Gets one or many entries.
  • POST: Create a new entry.
  • PUT: Update an existing entry
  • DELETE: Remove an entry.

The basic idea is to make it easy to break down the data silos and let content increase its value by making it available for more people. 

Example uses:

Ecobox project database

Ecobox is a department of the National Association of Norwegian Architects (www.arkitektur.no). Ecobox has a large database of environmentally friendly building projects and architecture in Norway. This database is stored in Webnodes CMS, and uses the semantic content engine in Webnodes to a great extent, with a complex data structure that relates projects, environmental measures, key figures, architects, cost benefit analysis, measure types, project types, countries, municipalities, consulting companies, sponsors and counties to each other.

Originally this was a database that was only published at www.arkitektur.no/prosjektdatabase but recently a number of governmental institutions, partners and collaborating organizations have expressed an interest in displaying project information from the central database on their own websites, and even contributing with new projects to the central database.  This means that the content in the central database must be easily available for the partners.

Normally these integrations would be implemented using web services, but after discussing it with the customer, a number of complications arose. Different partners needed different types of data. And this was only after talking to a couple of partners. What if everyone had different needs? Would it require costly work for each new partner that signs up? By simply exposing the data as an OData feed, they can do that once, and the different partners can fetch the information they want, without Ecobox being involved except setting up a login and providing the url to the OData feed.

Integrations

OData is a great format for data exchange between different systems, which makes it a good solution for many integration projects. It is also very easy to use for developers, especially for .Net developers, due to excellent support in Visual Studio. We'll go into more technical details for developers in a later blogpost. 

Mobile

Mobile technology is very hot at the moment, and OData can easily be used by apps on the most popular mobile platforms like Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7.

One of the reasons for the success of Facebook and Twitter is the open access to their data. The freely available data means that anyone can make Twitter and Facebook clients without even talking to them. Now anyone with a Webnodes powered site can make their own data just as easy to access!

Javascript

OData can use one of two formats for representing the data: AtomPub and JSON. JSON is the lingua franca of Ajax, and is extremely easy to use for JavaScript developers.

Excel data analysis

Microsoft has a free plugin for Excel 2010 called PowerPivot that allows you to connect to an OData feed, import the data you want, and then use Excel to visualize and analyze the data. This opens up for a number of exciting possibilities. Any kind of data in a Webnodes can be used: e-commerce orders, users, form submissions etc.

Some quick screenshots:

1
The PowerPivot Excel plugin


2
Select "From Data Feeds"


33
Type in the url to the OData feed you want to use


44
Select the Content Type(s) you want to import into Excel.

55
686 users are imported successfully into Excel

66
The imported data


777
An example visualization of the data

 

22.02.2011
Posted by: Vidar Langberget
Categories: OData  CMS 
  
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