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Your Database Just Got Its Own Website

Update 12/21: Sandman can now activate the REST API and admin interface without your listing your database tables! With five lines of code, you get those two services, plus your browser will automatically open to the admin interface when you start sandman. This means that by simply inserting your DB host, username and password and running sandman, you get the admin interface and a RESTful service. There is literally nothing more that you need to do.

I briefly posted about my sandman library before, but today it got even cooler. To recap, sandman is a service that sits in front of an existing, legacy database and provides a REST API for it, all without requiring any tedious boilerplate code. It's pretty amazing to see firsthand, when someone throws sandman in front of a giant legacy database in their enterprise and starts interacting with it using cURL. You can check out the documentation at ReadTheDocs.

Even better, starting today, sandman supports filtering in HTTP requests (as all good REST APIs do). What does that mean and how does it work? Glad you asked.

Previously, if you issued a GET request to sandman, you would get one of three things:

  • A single resource (because your URI included the primary key)
  • All resources of a certain type (because it didn't include the primary key)
  • An error, because the resource wasn't found

But what if I wanted to filter for a subset of all the resources? Many APIs allow filter parameters to be sent in the query string. For example, if I want to find "AC/DC" but I don't know their primary key in the "Artists" table, I should be able to send a request like this:

$ curl "localhost:5000/artists?Name=AC/DC"

After all, sandman is backed by a database, isn't it (yes, it is; your database)? Being able to add WHERE clauses is insanely useful. Even more useful is to be able to issue compound clauses using multiple columns for filtering.

Sandman now supports this out-of-the-box, with no extra effort on your part.

sandman filtering screenshot

That's right. By simply defining what tables from your database you want sandman to make available via REST (or admin GUI), you get searching/filtering for free. Think of how powerful that is:

You can now query any legacy database using cURL.

And remember, sandman also gives you the beautiful admin interface, shown here:

sandman admin screenshot

It's pretty amazing. If you have a legacy database in your organization, regardless of size, you can throw sandman at it and get an awesome RESTful service along with a kick-ass admin interface, without writing any boilerplate ORM code.

Now that I have sandman, I find myself using it for small databases just as often as large ones. Did you know your Google Chrome data is stored in an sqlite database? Now it has a GUI! The contact list on your phone? Here, have a REST API! Honestly, the list of cool stuff you can do with sandman is endless.

It goes without saying that sandman is still actively being developed. We (the Data team at AppNexus) just decided to use it for a large project we're working on, replacing a Java-based REST service in about 1/100th the number of LOC. Of course, since sandman is so straightforwardly written (and has 100% test coverage), adding filtering capabilities only took five lines of additional code. Honestly. FIVE. Here's proof.

If your organization is thinking about using sandman, let me know! I have a lot of features I'd like to add, but I'll prioritize the ones that others actually want to use. And feel free to contribute changes to the source as well. Just send me a pull request.

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