Rho Sync

Synchronization servers provide the ability for mobile users to access information even when the device is offline or disconnected. They can also dramatically simplify the programming model. Developers can assume the data that they need is available locally in a database instead of writing code to access the network and take apart the data from some wire format.

In the past, synchronization servers assumed access to an underlying database for the application they wanted to mobilize. This was true of sync servers such as IntelliSync (now discontinued by Nokia) and Motorola Starfish. With the advent of Software As A Service (SaaS), such as SalesForce, Siebel On Demand, SugarCRM On Demand, and others, direct access to a database can no longer be assumed. This invalidated the approaches of the whole first generation of mobile sync servers. And it's now known to be a worst practice to integrate via databases.

The good news is that all SaaS vendors now expose some form of web services interface, typically a SOAP or REST web service. This creates an opportunity for a new kind of sync server for mobile devices targeted to enterprise apps exposing web services. A new sync server can also focus on today's much more powerful smartphones.

RhoSync is a new sync server framework concentrating on mobilizing applications exposing web services to smartphones. Like Rhodes, the RhoSync server is open source (but distributed under GPL), providing freedom and flexibility if needed. RhoSync is written in Ruby, but more importantly, connections to back-end services (which are pluggable extensions to RhoSync) are written in Ruby. RhoSync facilitates mobile development by providing a simple way to integrate data from external web services into Rhodes-based smartphone applications. The complexity and lines of code required to connect users to your back-end services are orders of magnitude smaller than the size and effort that has typically been associated with sync projects: for example, a basic RhoSync source adapter requires only 20 lines of easily understandable code.

In this chapter, you'll get the background you need to develop an understanding of the RhoSync server, then it will guide you in using RhoHub, a hosted RhoSync server, or setting up your own RhoSync server with a very simple application. The chapter concludes with a complete sample application to demonstrate end-to-end integration and to introduce a real-world use case for using RhoSync with Rhodes.

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