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Directus brings Open Data Platform technology to the cloud

The vendor's new managed cloud service is designed to enable organizations to connect applications, business intelligence and websites to data sources and databases.

Directus has taken its Open Data Platform to the cloud with a new managed service.

The Directus Open Data Platform, which the headless CMS vendor made generally available Tuesday, enables users to turn any type of SQL database into an API that can then be used to power applications.

A primary application for Directus is to enable a content management system (CMS), which often requires complex integration with databases in order to run.

Organizations also use Directus as a data platform for business intelligence reporting.

The cloud service is powered by the company's namesake technology, which to date has run on premises or in self-managed cloud deployments.

The vendor, based in New York City, had a major milestone update of its technology in November 2021 with the release of Directus 9 and provided an incremental update with the 9.5 update on Jan 31.

Among the users of the Directus platform is Alexander Zhukov, a software engineer for music and art supply software vendor Native Instruments based in Berlin.

"We're in a transition period from legacy CMS and are still experimenting, so there's no established data architecture," Zhukov said. "That's exactly where Directus is very handy, by allowing us to experiment."

Directus aims to ease data management with the Open Data Platform

Ben Haynes, co-founder and CEO of Directus, explained that the genesis of his company was in 2004, when he was building interactive displays, kiosks, apps and websites for organizations.

Over and over, he said his team spent a significant amount of time building the data structure and information architecture for each project, often as a bespoke effort.

That led to the Directus building out its own data platform, separating out the data back end from the application front end.

The initial platform was what is now commonly referred to as headless CMS, in which user interface logic is powered by a thin layer on top of a database. Over time, Haynes said that more use cases emerged.

He noted that companies were using the platform for not just websites, but also for applications, digital kiosks, financial reporting and even maintenance schedules.

We saw a lot of really powerful use cases. So we basically had this idea of like let's zoom out, let's stop considering this a CMS project, and let's consider it a data management project.
Ben HaynesCo-founder and CEO, Directus

"We saw a lot of really powerful use cases," Haynes said. "So we basically had this idea of like, let's zoom out, let's stop considering this a CMS project, and let's consider it a data management project."

Haynes said Directus' main focus for the last five years has been on building out the open data platform.

The Directus 9 release in November marked a major update, with support for new features including GraphQL API capabilities enabling more connectivity to different data sources. The Directus 9 update also involved a rewrite of the programming code from the PHP language to Typescript to provide more performance and security.

Directus itself is not a database, but rather a technology layer that sits on top of an existing database.

Directus supports multiple databases including Oracle database, PostgreSQL, MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server and CockroachDB. Haynes explained that the Directus platform introspects user databases and identifies all the tables. Directus then provides an API endpoint for each table, making it easier for developers to connect with.

Screenshot of the Directus Open Data Platform
The Directus Open Data Platform provides a semantic layer on top of existing databases and data sources in an effort to make it easier to build data applications.

Easier access and operations for Open Data Platform

Haynes said that before the general availability of the Directus Cloud, the vendor supported a small number of customers with a pre-release service.

He noted that at this point most Directus' users are still self-hosted, but he said the vendor's goal now is to help them make the shift to the Directus Cloud.

"Our main focus now will be on data fluidity," Haynes said. "Allowing new and existing customers to easily import legacy data into cloud and one-click support for on-premises users to migrate to cloud."

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