Turn a database into a website or API with SlashDB

Software is eating the world, according to Marc Andreessen. SlashDB aims to make that more palatable for all those organizations with existing IT assets.

I talk a lot about the fact that much of the data that existing organizations have is locked up within legacy technology platforms. The number of mission-critical applications that sit on old-school databases or mainframes is amazing.

While these apps probably meet their intended purpose, the age of the infrastructure upon which they sit means that web-enabling them, let alone mobile-enabling, is a nearly impossible task.

It is for this reason that a number of vendors have been set up which attempt to "wrap" existing applications with an integration layer that allows them to be ported to the web, to mobile, or integrated with third-party solutions.

One player in this space is SlashDB. SlashDB is a middleware platform which automatically constructs RESTful web services out of relational databases so their content becomes accessible for reading and writing in XML, JSON, CSV, and HTML. If that all sounds like a foreign language, here's a simple explanation: with SlashDB, applications sitting on very old databases can suddenly be exposed to the outside world: web applications, mobile applications, and integration by way of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are all much easier to make.

Victor Olex, founder and president of SlashDB, describes the product as an automated web API for databases. In simple terms, using SlashDB, organizations can make every record in their legacy databases reachable by a hyperlink. The data is, almost miraculously, available for reading, writing, and searching over normal HTTP in various data formats.

SlashDB reminds me a little of an offering from FairCom. In that case, FairCom is wrapping COBOL applications with an API layer. It also sits within the general category of an offering from SOA Software that attempts to API-enable mainframe applications. It's also, funnily enough, almost the direct opposite of import.io, a company that helps people turn website information into consumable data.

This is actually pretty cool and means that organizations can build a web or mobile presence with nothing more than a backend database. SlashDB works by creating custom URLs that call individual data points from the database within which they're stored.

SlashDB has seen some success with on-premises implementations but is now also available on Amazon Web Services' and Microsoft Azure's cloud marketplaces. 

People talk a lot about the "software-ization" of existing organizations. But within the real-world context of a business, with existing investments in IT assets, that can be a really hard thing to achieve. It's a brave CTO that goes to her CEO or board to propose a wholesale gutting of the existing IT assets. With SlashDB, organizations can mobilize and integrate their existing applications at low cost and, most importantly, low levels of complexity.

SlashDB looks like an excellent solution for the majority of companies that need to think of IT transformation in context to their current situation. It will be interesting to see the use cases they come up with.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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