1) At a glimpse
4WS.Platform is an Application Platform that allows you to create and use web and mobile enterprise software applications in a very simple way and without or with a very limited coding.
Those applications - differently from the traditional ICT offering - can be designed and developed fast, let you involve final users from their inception with rapid prototyping techniques, they can adapt to changing business models and needs, and, finally, they are provided as Software as a Service to benefit from the cloud technologies.
Its unique value is geared towards three main features:
- Easy application engineering.
Because it offers the most complete set of functionalities, all included in one coherent environment and it allows for the re-use of application functionalities and templates.
- No limit to the applications to be developed.
Because it combines Rapid Application Development techniques with custom coding, integrated into the application architecture, so to re-solve any limit in the application development imposed by existing similar products.
- Integrated information system environment.
Because it is based on a fully service oriented architecture and it natively integrates a vast array of internal and external components and engines, in a transparent way to the users.
4ws.Platform is solid, reliable and easy to use because it is natively based on a modular and pluggable architecture composed of a coherent set of sub-systems, each of them focused on a specific area, e.g. application designer, identity management, scheduler, etc.
A vast array of open source components, libraries and engines is integrated into the platform in a transparent way to the user. That means, from one side that the platform core software is maintained up-to-date to industry standards, on the other side that the users can benefit from a large set of functionalities without the need of knowing the single components.
Two different editions are available:
The Enterprise Edition is offered as SaaS, so you’ll be using it through a browser both to create applications and to let your users access those applications,
The Community Edition, which is composed by a limited subset of the Enterprise Edition, is offered as a free downloadable open source version. That’s the way we’d like to thank and to contribute as well to the open source community.
2) What you need to use 4WS.Platform
After purchasing your suitable plan, all you need is a last generation browser and an Internet connection. Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are recommended.
For the day-to-day common work, no particular bandwidth is needed. In case of batch import or export of massive amount of data, of course a suitable reliable bandwidth and connection is required, as it is normal with the Internet usage.
Programmers are no longer needed to develop applications; the required skills are in most of the cases limited to the SQL language for managing tables, objects and relations.
In that way, you can concentrate and leverage your business domain knowledge and get closer to your user preferences and experience.
Learning how to use 4WS.Platform is easy and a vast amount of on-line resources, like manuals, how-to, hints, videos, ecc. are available. Usually, just a few days for learning-with-hands-on are enough to master your most complex applications.
3) How to create applications
Access the application with your default browser and log in with your username and password. This action opens the control panel, which we call Web Designer. Here you find all what you need to build an application, by selecting the appropriate menu.
The whole system and the resulting applications are based on the MVC paradigm, and applications are created accordingly:
- first, create database tables and relations, which are then mapped to models,
- next, those models can be showed through different kinds of views, such as grids, trees, detail forms, and so forth;
- finally, controllers can be defined to capture events and manage actions linked to views.
Behind the scenes, the development of an application through the Web Designer results in the generation of a set of metadata stored in the database repository. Those data can be interpreted by either the web or the mobile interpreter, to make the final application runnable and accessible by the users.
The web GUI provided by the web interpreter is very rich, fast and interactive, ensuring an amazing user experience, comparable with the one available with the classical desktop applications.
4) How to deploy applications
Deploying applications is very simple, despite different procedures are needed for web and mobile applications.
For web applications. If you’ll run the application in the same environment where the Web Designer is - which is the normal case - deploy is not even needed, since the application is immediately accessible to the registered users.
Instead, if you purchased two different environments, to separate application development from production, a specific functionality is available, which also allows for progressive deployments.
For mobile applications. Mobile applications are available for Android and iOS platforms and their distribution will depend on the rules defined by Google and Apple.
The starting point is based on an empty mobile app, which will use the synchronization task embedded in it to get the metadata and data needed to work.
Metadata and data are provided by the Platform installation on the cloud you purchased. The Web Designer is the tool used to define metadata, which represents the GUI, business logic and events which compose the app. Currently, the generation of the empty mobile app is provided by the Supplier of the service: you can request for an empty app each time you create a new mobile app through the Web Designer. The request is managed through an ad hoc form to fill in, inside the Web Designer and it includes certificates and any other information required to correctly set up the app. Please note that additional license fees are required by Apple or Google in order to generate certificates, provisioning files and access to their app stores.
5) aPaaS and Application Data
The provided aPaas service is composed on the Google Cloud Platform and consists of:
- Google Compute Engine, used to host the Web Designer and all the web applications you want to run
- Google CloudSQL, a relational database managed by Google and based on a MySQL implementation
You can create your own applications through the Web Designer and based on such a database. The database is automatically backed-up by Google, every day at the time you specified when signing up the service.
According to the service you purchased, you may have also access to the Alfresco CMS solution, based on the same environments. You can directly access Alfresco CMS web console when you need to define the main objects and use the Web Designer for creating your document based applications.
In order to provide you with a reliable environment, we do not allow the direct access to the file system of any machine. You can still manage documents using Alfresco CMS or files using the configured functionalities created using the Web Designer.
Backup is provided both for the VM file system and the database, on a daily basis with a 7 days retention policy. The restore activities must be requested through the Ticketing system and will be processed according to the SLA policies.
Database remote access
When signing up the service, you have also specified an IP address: the database scheme will be configured in order to allow you to access it remotely, from any machine recognzed with that IP address.
Optionally, you can also assign a domain to the server you purchased. Otherwise, the service will be available starting from the static IP address automatically assigned to the service. You can ask for the domain assignment through the Ticketing system described in the Technical Assistance.
4WS.Platform allows you to manage email messages through the API included with the product. Emails can be sent or read starting from SMTP or POP/IMAP external servers.
The service does not include any email server: it is up to the client choosing and paying for an external email service and configure it inside the environment.
Default ports used by e-mail services (25, 587, 465) cannot be used. We suggest using popular cloud email services like Google G Suite, SendGrid, Mailgun, Mailchimp Mandrill and others that also provide free plans.
4WS.Platform has a strong integration with Google services, including: Google G Suite (GMail, Google Drive, Google Calendar), Google Cloud Storage.
You can connect Platform to these services as long as you have purchased a Google for Work license and correctly set up the environment with the Domain settings.
6) What happens when you stop using 4WS.Platform
After the termination of the Agreement, data, files and web applications will be no longer available. Therefore, we suggest to export (backup) database data before the expiration of the Agreement.
If you have configured mobile apps, these will be still installed on your mobile devices but they will not be able to connect to the Platform server environment and, consequently, they will not work.
Mobile apps could also stop working in case you have not renewed the Apple licence needed to get freshed certificates to include in your apps, which are essential to run the apps.