The cloud has opened up enhanced opportunities to store and access data. However, for enterprises to take full advantage of this new power, database development tools need to be accessible to self-service by the typical business user without limiting any of the database’s flexibility or scalability. Caspio was designed to meet this need and I recently spoke with their CEO, Frank Zamani.
Frank said Caspio was founded in 2000 before the cloud hype started, as he saw the need to enable the development of Web apps by business users. It was his second tech startup. Frank took the first, Autoweb, an online car purchasing platform, public in 1999. While Frank wanted to speed up the process of moving databases from the desktop to the cloud, he decided to keep the familiar look and feel of desktop applications. Caspio uses AJAX to give its users a development environment that is intuitive to users of traditional desktop databases such as Microsoft Access.
Caspio Bridge is their flagship fully-featured product. It covers the entire end-to-end process of setting up and maintaining an online database. Frank took me on a tour. You can set up as many tables as you want either by importing data from an existing tool such as Excel, or by creating your own data entry forms. Caspio uses Microsoft SQL Server as the backend so it is highly-scalable and reliable.
Caspio Bridge “DataPages” allow you to create application interfaces to your data using step-by-step wizards and you can embed these DataPages directly in your Web pages. This feature means that you do not have to go to the Caspio site to launch your application. Frank showed me a number of examples where Deloitte, Equifax, and Fitness Magazine created Web applications that they embedded in their own sites. This is very useful for enhancing company Web sites.
I especially liked an application by the Indianapolis Star that promoted citizen journalism. Anyone can file a story. Once the story is approved by the paper, it goes online. Through a mashup with Google Maps, you see where stories are breaking.
Frank quickly demonstrated how you can set up a database, create Web forms and search interfaces, and then embed the apps in any Web site. You can also pick any of the fields in the database to serve as search filters and allow for a drill down into the details behind a search result. There are a number of styles available to customize the design and a localization feature allows you to apply a large number of languages.
You can make fields editable and/or required and you can require a password for access to the DataPages. They created the sample database and set up the password protection in a Web site in about 5 minutes with no coding. All of this is done through point-and-click selections in Caspio’s wizards.
Caspio also provides APIs and you can extend it through any programming language so there are no special learning requirements. Additionally, Caspio’s embedded deployment makes it easy to syndicate apps across multiple Web sites. For example, one newspaper set up a restaurant violations database on its Web site. This same search form is easily syndicated on other Web sites as a widget.
There appears to be a nice combination of flexibility, power, and ease of use. I can see how it is popular, especially with enterprise and media Web sites. Frank also writes a Caspio Highlights blog to provide more context for the product and his experiences as CEO.