Drupal 8: Entities and data integration

As follow-up to my previous blog post Drupal 8: Approaching Content and Configuration Management, I'm going to shortly cover how the Entity API could help us with two more of Dries' points: Web services and information integration.

First off, for getting RESTful web services into core, having a unified API to build upon makes lots of sense. That way we make sure we locally have the same uniform interface for CRUD functions available as we expose it to the web. But moreover, the possibility of having remote entities can help us a lot with integrating with remote systems. In a way, we'll get that anyway once we implement pluggable entity storage controllers (and you can even do so already in D7).

But for that really being useful, we need to know the data we want to work with. This is why, I come up with the hook_entity_property_info() in the Entity API module for d7. While for d7 it is built on top of the stuff that is there anyway, I think it should play a much more central role in D8 for various reasons:

  • A description of all the data properties of an entity enables modules to deal with any entity regardless of the entity type just based on the available data properties (and their data types). That way, modules can seamlessly continue to work even with entities stemming from remote systems. This is how, the RestWS, SearchAPI and Rules modules already work in d7.
  • With pluggable storage backends, I see no point in SQL-centric schema information except we are going to use SQL based storage. By defining the property info, storage backends can work based on that though, i.e. generate the sql backend can generate the schema out of the property information.
  • When working with entities, what bothers is the data actually available in the object. To a module, the internal storage format doesn't matter. In a way, the property information defines the "contract" how the entity has to look like. Given that, all APIs should be built based on that, i.e. efq should accept the value to query for exactly the same way it appears in the entity and not in storage-backend dependend way (no one can predict once storage is pluggable). The very same way display formatters and form widgets could just rely on the described data too.

As we discussed in the entity API bof, it might make sense to build it around "field types" evolving to "data types" - thus being decoupled from being a "field". The very same way we can start building the display components around the entity properties, thus not necessarily being based on fields (bye bye field api "extra fields"). Any way the implementation will look like, let's let the entity API become our long missing data API!

Comments

are here: http://groups.drupal.org/node/133579

Sounds good, fago. I think a real strength of the Entity API and the entity_metadata_wrapper() is its treatment of field data as properties. Being able to easily access and manipulate field data without worrying about language codes and schemas has been invaluable to Drupal Commerce. We need a core solution that incorporates this idea...

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