What is the LoopBack Framework and Why do we Use it?

Useful applications typically retrieve and store data.  Most of us are so familiar with working day to day with web-based applications like email, calendars or online stores that we don't even think about the thousands of transactions that are occurring as these apps fetch data to display to us, and save data that we have created or modified. When these transactions occur, the web page (or mobile app) on our screen is calling APIs (Application Programming Interfaces),  which are pre-defined ways for the 'front-end'  to communicate with the 'back-end'.  If you want to build a new application tomorrow, the construction of these APIs could be a significant portion of the development effort in your project. Apex Process Consultants speed up this process through the use of LoopBack.

What is LoopBack?

The LoopBack framework is a set of Node.js modules that you can use  to quickly build REST APIs. In case you have been living on the moon, Node.js is an extremely popular, open-source Javascript run-time environment for applications.  LoopBack is an open-source framework which is maintained by a company called Strongloop, acquired by IBM in 2018. Recently, LoopBack was recognized as "Best in API Middleware" at the 2019 API Awards. (Yes, there are API Awards. Don't be a hater.)

Loopback is now at the center of IBM's APIConnect product....

Why do we use it?

With LoopBack you can define data structures, automatically build database tables to support those structures, and effortlessly generate a full REST API for accessing them. User authentication and authorization are handled, and the whole process is radically faster than building APIs from scratch.

LoopBack comes with a powerful Command Line Interface, LoopBack CLI. By default, creating a new Model object in LoopBack automatically generates REST APIs for create, read, update, and delete actions (CRUD).

In addition to powerful command line tools and empowering default APIs, LoopBack also comes with a very useful (and colorful) web interface for interacting with your data sources.

The API Explorer lets you interact with your data model from the convenience of a browser tab.

Taking it to the next level

Initially we used LoopBack to build API backends to support applications that we were building using IBM BPM. BPM was never intended to be a system of record (SOR), but almost every BPM project we did identified at least one missing SOR. Many databases were created, and many API services were manually created to address these needs.  Loopback enabled us to build these systems of record without manual creation of many API services.

As a logical next step, we combined LoopBack with our experience generating user interfaces with Angular. We created a complete model-based application builder we call Apex Designer.

Apex Designer allows us to create applications with complete REST API back-ends in a very short time. It gives us a graphical, Low Code development tool built on Angular, Node.js and - at the heart of it - LoopBack. We'll talk more about how (and why) we built Apex Designer in a future post, but if you want more information now head over to ApexDesigner.io and have a look.

Nick Laughton

Nick Laughton