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FYI – You can run batch routines (CRON) jobs on FatFractal

As a developer, I want to be able to schedule code to run periodically on my backend so that I can clean up my data, generate reports or any other function that is not generated by an event or API call.

In addition to Event Handlers which execute based on data events and Server Extensions that execute on an API call, FatFractal also supports running backend code on a periodic basis using our Schedule Code capability. Any number of functions can be defined that execute on defined schedules. This has many applications from data administration to reporting, there really is no limit to what you can do with this.

Scheduled Code is defined in the same manner as Event Handlers and Server Extensions in your FFDL (what’s this?). You can define as many scheduled code events to be executed as you wish very easily as follows:

SCHEDULE <task name> <schedule> AS <script type>:<script text>

Where schedule is given in CRON format:

<minute (0-59)> <hour (0-23)> <day of month (1-31)> <month (1-12)> <day of week (0-6)>

For example, if I want to send out a daily report that lists the number of users for my cool new app, I would create a function like this in a file (here called EventHandlers.js):

ff = require('ffef/FatFractal');
exports.userReport = function() {
var n = ff.getArrayFromUri("/FFUser").length;
var msgSubject = "Application user total daily report";
var msgString = "You now have " + n + " users loving your application";
host: "<mailserver>", port: "<port>",
auth: "<true|false>", authPort: "<port>",
username: "<username>", password: "<password>",
from: "<fromAddress>", to: "<toAddress>",
cc: null, bcc: null, // included for completeness
subject: msgSubject,
text: msgString,
html: null // included for completeness. When supplied, the HTML message is
// sent, the text is also included as fallback if HTML viewing
// is not enabled in the receiver's email client

And, then to schedule this be sent out daily at midnight, the FFDL would be:

SCHEDULE UserReport 0 0 * * * AS javascript:require(‘scripts/EventHandlers).userReport();

That’s it – an approach that is very consistent with everything else which allows you to easily schedule any code that you like to execute on a defined schedule.

For more details on FFDL, the docs are here.

For more details on Scheduled Code, the docs are here.

Have fun!


FYI – FatFractal provides an amazingly flexible event model for your business logic (when foo changes, do bar)

As a developer, I want to be able to create business logic for my backend using a language that I am familiar with so that I can quickly implement my solution without having to learn something new.

I must confess that this is one of my favorite things about the FatFractal platform. Essentially this involves an amazingly simple method for creating business logic on your backend and I hope that you will find the freedom and flexibility as convenient and useful as I do.

Business Logic

I am used to creating object classes on my backend, and then writing lots of inline business logic to manage my objects (data). I would create actions like createOrder within which I would do all kinds of things like validation, notification, etc. within each one. All fine, but requires lots and lots of code, a lot of discipline to ensure consistency as well as to avoid overloading any particular function with too much cruft.

So now, Backend as a Service provides good CRUD methods making it easy to persist your data to the backend, but most leave a * huge * amount to be desired in terms of implementing business logic on the backend, relegating the developer to dealing with in the client code causing bloat, poor performance and data reliability concerns.

Maybe there is a better way…

As Gary writes in his blog about the origins of NoServer -

“The cloud should:

  • Store and retrieve my objects.
  • Securely – permissions and security should be robust and at a fundamental level.
  • Efficiently – with easy to create queries that get me what I want.
  • Execute code on the backend when my data changes (events).
  • Not prevent me from doing anything else that I want to do.”

Event Handlers/ User Stories

With FatFractal’s Event model, I am now free to define discrete pieces of functionality that are bound to events generated as my data “changes”. All together, they define my business logic for my application backend much easier than ever before.

This means that I need to think about things differently in terms of how I architect my code. The good news is that, if you are a fan of user stories as I am, then this you will find it interesting that this maps really well for those that can be implemented on the backend. You can literally implement one-for-one against user stories. It also means that I can implement my business logic with amazingly little code – very cool!

For example:

As the administrator of foo, I want to make sure that all requisite info is present before I store an Order so that I do not have a lot of zombie orders in my data.

exports.validateOrder = function() {
var order = ff.getEventHandlerData();
if (!order.amount || (order.amount <= 0) {
throw {statusCode:400, statusMessage:'An order amount greater than zero is required'};

As a vendor, I want to be alerted via email when an Order greater than $5000 is received so that I can be glad that I started this business afterall.

exports.alertBigOrder = function() {
var order = ff.getEventHandlerData();
if (order.amount >= 5000) {
var user = ff.getObjFromUri("ff/resources/FFUser/" + order.createdBy);
var name = user.firstName + " " + user.lastName;
var msgSubject = "Woo Hoo - you got an order for " + order.amount;
var msgString = "Order " + order.amount + " was created by " + name;
        ff.sendEmail ({
            host: "<mailserver>", port: "<port>",
            auth: "<true|false>", authPort: "<port>",
            username: "<username>", password: "<password>",
            from: "<fromAddress>", to: "<toAddress>",
cc: null, bcc: null, // included for completeness
            subject: msgSubject,
            text: msgString,
html: null // included for completeness. When supplied, the HTML message is
// sent, the text is also included as fallback if HTML viewing
// is not enabled in the receiver's email client

Controlling your Event Handlers with FFDL

You have complete control over how these events are handled (SYNC (PRE or POST), ASYNC) as well as the order in which things are executed using FFDL (what’s this?). So to define the two functions above in your FFDL, you just add the following:

CREATE HANDLER validateOrder PRE ON /Order CREATE AS javascript:require (‘scripts/MyEventHandlers.js’).validateOrder();
This means that the validateOrder() function will be called when a new order is Created, but before the Order is actually stored (PRE). This ensures that the order has all the requisite info and prevents storing zombie orders.
CREATE HANDLER alertBigOrder ASYNC ON /Order CREATE AS javascript:require(‘scripts/MyEventHandlers.js’).alertBigOrder();
This means that when a new order is Created, an alert will be sent via email Asynchronously, but only after the PRE event is cleared.

So – there you have it! Events makes it really simple to visualize and implement your business logic with simple functions that are easy to create and maintain. While this makes it really easy to do many, many things – there are some things that need even more, and that is where Server Extensions come to bear. Will post about those soon.

Happy coding!


For more information about Event Handlers, see here.

For more information about FFDL, see here.

See Gary’s blog post about the origins of NoServer here.

PaaS? BaaS? What?

Lots of people ask about the origins of NoServer, which is what we call FatFractal’s BaaS module.

We were in the process of building out our cloud fabric and one night, while building yet another demo app, I decided that all developer-centric cloud platforms really also ought to offer a way for developers to get 90% of what they need for the server-side of their app, out-of-the-box, while also trying to ensure that we not fence them in – i.e. give lots of functionality with minimum effort whilst also giving flexibility and extensibility to go beyond the box as you reach the edges of what is initially provided.

The 90% boiled down to the following. The cloud should:

  • Store and retrieve my objects.
  • Securely – permissions and security should be robust and at a fundamental level.
  • Efficiently – with easy to create queries that get me what I want.
  • Execute code on the backend when my data changes (events).
  • Not prevent me from doing anything else that I want to do.

The last point is really important! Whilst getting the other things makes my life a lot easier and will make me very happy for a month or two, if the flip side is that I then get stuck and as a result get frustrated and miserable, then I wouldn’t want it. So by June 2012 we had built enough to trial with customers – who loved it! – we launched our public beta in September, worked through the kinks in Oct-Dec :-) and we are now really focussed on getting the word out.

Meanwhile, some new marketing terms were emerging from other similar, but essentially different approaches. Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Backend as a Service (BaaS) are now terms that are used widely.

Upon reflection, it seems to me that they are both missing the point. PaaS is still very focused on a historical view of a set of IT problems, i.e. “stacks”. BaaS is seeking to provide more of a turnkey solution for application developers that treats the backend as a black box and is extremely limiting, invasive and prescriptive (smells like attempts at lock-in to me).

IMHO – what the market needs is a bit of both: a very smart cloud fabric that deals with infrastructure, monitoring, scalability, reliability, resilience etc, and also provides the ease of creation and out-of-the-box features that BaaS does, but does not limit the developer as a result. If I want to deploy some Java Code, Ruby Code or anything else in order to do something that I want to do, right alongside my “BaaS” stuff, then I should be able to.

So – in a nutshell, what we have so far built into NoServer is:

  • True fully qualified REST URIs
  • CRUD persistence
  • SDKs that operate at the data level and do not encroach into your code unnecessarily.
  • Amazingly straightforward modelling of your object graph’s relationships
  • Natural language, chained queries nested as deep as you want.
  • Strong authentication. SSL of course. Declarative access controls for your data which is sufficient for almost all use cases while also providing programmatic control (directly setting ACLs on objects) for when the declarative approach isn’t enough (which, so far, has been incredibly rare)
  • Exposed CRUD events with defined Event Handlers that execute your custom JavaScript code when they occur with synchronous (PRE or POST) as well as asynchronous modes. Currently we use RingoJS which allows you to do pretty much anything you need to do, including make HTTP requests; we also supply an API for sending Apple/Android push notifications, sending emails, image processing, and of course full access to your app’s datastore.
  • Server Extensions that allow you to extend your API with whatever server-side processing you want, and the ability to schedule scripts to run whenever you like

We’re pretty flexible at the server-side already, and I think you’ll agree we’re already better than (or *at least* as good as!) our BaaS competitors, but there’s lots more to come. Here’s a list of some of what’s coming over the next six months or so!

  • Greatly enhanced and pluggable authentication framework so that you can script integration with pretty much whatever 3rd-party identity / authentication cloud you like
  • Event Handlers for GET requests, and ‘virtual’ collections
  • Allowing mix and match of the powerful declarative access controls we already have with your own javascript for the really really edge cases (like, only allow access to this object if the current user lives in Idaho)
  • Enabling integration between NoServer and Rails backends. This is a big step towards completing our vision – i.e. if you reach the limits of what NoServer provides, then you should be able to extend your backend with some Ruby-on-Rails, or Java servlets, or NodeJS, or whatever
  • Allowing use of NodeJS modules in your NoServer server-side scripting

  • Full support for NodeJS applications on the FatFractal PaaS, and integration between NoServer / Node / Rails / Servlets modules in your app’s backend
  • And last, but definitely not least – and probably the most personally exciting to me given where I have spent a lot of my working life (i.e. large enterprise IT) – we will be working on evolving our products so that they can be leveraged by enterprises. More on that when the time comes :-)

I hope that you like what we have built – would very much appreciate your feedback.



In case you’re curious – NoServer is a tribute to the no-stuff (chamber, room, globe, ship) in Frank Herbert’s most excellent Dune series.