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Realm – a database you may not have heard of but app devs have – touts cloudy platform

Tool tries to simplify shifting data to and from mobes

By Thomas Claburn, 29 Sep 2016

At last, you can stop thinking about networking.

Mobile database maker Realm promises this bliss as a consequence of using its new Realm Mobile Platform – which weds the Realm Mobile Database with the Realm Object Server to support applications that exchange real-time data.

Using the now open-source Realm Mobile Database, a client-side database for iOS and Android devices that debuted in 2014, developers of mobile application can conjure the miracle of shared whiteboards, for example, by availing themselves of real-time data synchronization between mobile devices and the Realm Object Server.

Realm spokesman Paul Kopacki told The Register that integrating databases with mobile applications can be difficult. "When you think about coding your application, you're coding objects," he said. "To translate that thinking into SQL tables is pretty hard."

The Realm Mobile Database offers an alternative to SQLite, ORMs, and Core Data (Apple's framework for interacting with data stores). As an object database, it can pass data without serializing it – in other words, reading data and turning it into a continuous stream for transport. Its value proposition is speed, data correctness, and the lack of need for object-relational mapping (ORM).

Kopacki says there are thousands of apps using Realm databases, amounting to over a billion installs. Concur, a company that that provides expense management for businesses, has been using the Realm Mobile Database, said Kopacki, to ensure its expense reporting app offers a good user experience. "It frees their development team to focus on things other than wrestling with serialization," he said, adding that Concur is evaluating the Realm Platform.

Alexander Stigsen, cofounder and CEO of Realm, said his company aimed to allow developers to create apps with the same real-time collaboration capabilities of Google Docs. Coincidentally, Google's Firebase is a cloud-based service that offers data synchronization, without the database component.

The Realm Platform works with Java, Objective-C, and Swift, at the moment. Support is planned for React Native and Xamarin. It's available in a free Developer Edition and an Enterprise Edition that requires a call for price disclosure.

Realm has found fans among developers who appreciate what they get out of the box. At the same time, it's not for everyone, as CA software engineer Rutvij Shah noted in a Medium post last year. Realm's Github repository (admirably) lists known issues. You've been warned. ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing