New REST Interfaces Provide Easier Access to caBIG« Applications
A team at Emory University is making it easier for end users to access caBIG« applications and services. By incorporating Representational State Transfer (REST) into caBIG« applications, developers are providing users with simplified ways to access caBIG« tools and data through the web.
"REST enables simplified, cross-platform access, allowing users with little IT knowledge to easily access various caBIG« Services and find the tools and data they need for their work," explained Ashish Sharma, Ph.D., Senior Systems Architect at Emory University.
He explains, "REST Interfaces offer the ability for users with minimal programming expertise to access data available on the Grid, using platforms that are comfortable and familiar, saving the time normally needed to have a programmer develop a new Java tool to access the data. Right now, if I want to access data or analytical capabilities on caGrid I need to know Java, and I need to develop new software clients. But with REST, it's almost as easy as using Google to access the rich environment that caGrid provides. This new RESTful API (Application Programming Interface) will allow researchers to use tools they are more familiar with, and more easily query data from these different Grid services."
In 2009, Dr. Sharma and his team developed the first RESTful API for the caBIG« Annotation Imaging Markup (AIM) Service. This initial project allowed users to access AIM objects through their web browser rather than learn a new software application. Now, the groundwork has been laid so that other developers can create a RESTful API for any caBIG« application or service.
Streamlining the Research Process
"In order to conduct investigations, researchers must complete two distinct steps. The first step is finding the data and exploring it, and the second part is data analysis. By leveraging the RESTful API, researchers can conduct data exploration and data discovery faster and easier using tools they're already familiar with. Through this project, people can access existing caGrid services, to use tools like spread sheets and many of the Google visualization and data analysis tools to explore the data," describes Dr. Sharma.
"The biggest benefit in incorporating the RESTful API is that it makes caBIG« applications and services accessible to researchers in a direct way. Now, instead of needing a developer to access data, researchers can quickly and easily see what data is available whenever they need to."
Mobile Access is on the Horizon
Dr. Sharma and his team hope to continue expanding access to caBIG« applications and services through new mobile applications, which will provide users with the ability to access data available on caGrid anytime and anywhere.
For more information on REST Interfaces, visit RESTful Web services: The basics.