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Notes from Ember-SC April 2014 meetup - Playing with Orbit.js and Ember.js

Playing with Orbit.js and Ember.js

This presenation is an exploration of rolling your own data persistence for and Ember.js Application

During this discovery I attempt to roll my own data solution. I've selected to use alpha software, Orbit.js. So not also choosing other alpha software at the some time. Not covering es6, broccoli, ember-cli etc.

The exploratory app is based on converting my blog app (uses REST) to use Web sockets with a Node.js backend. I am using some build tools also borrowing from tapas-with-ember. The modules in the source code are CommonJS modules.

What Options Exist for Persistance

  • Ember.js Persistence Foundation

    • Emphasis on correctness and stability.
    • Feature parity with Ember-Data with an easy migration path.
  • Ember Model

    • A lightweight model library for Ember.js
    • Provide primitives on top of $.ajax
  • Ember Data (Beta)

  • Roll your own, (Alpha)

I'm not going to take any time to compare but may callout some contrasts to choice I'm making as I work on a DIY data persistence solution.

What I'm currently exploring

  • Web Sockets (TCP)

    • Potentially closer to realtime interations compared to REST
    • Ships with All modern (popular) browsers, see
    • Gets around CORS
  • Smaller payloads (partial representation of a resource)

  • Connecting multiple storage adapters

    • Memory <-> localStorage <-> Web Socket (remote db)
  • High availability (distributed computing system)

    • Weak consistency with higher availability
    • Choosing liveness (eventually there) over Safety (always right)


See: ...

Simple example

The original document:

  "baz": "qux",
  "foo": "bar"

The patch:

  { "op": "replace", "path": "/baz", "value": "boo" },
  { "op": "add", "path": "/hello, "value": ["world"] },
  { "op": "remove, "path": "/foo}

The result:

   "baz": "boo",
   "hello": ["world"]


Add, Remove, Replace, Copy, Copy, Test


{"op": "add", "path": "/biscuits/1", "value": {"name": "Ginger Nut"}}

Adds a value to an object or inserts it into an array. In the case of an array the value is inserted before the given index. The - character can be used instead of an index to insert at the end of an array.


{"op": "remove", "path": "/biscuits"}

Removes a value from an object or array.


{"op": "replace", "path": "/biscuits/0/name", "value": "Chocolate Digestive"}

Replaces a value, equivalent to a “remove” followed by an “add”.


What is Orbit.js ?

Let's take a look at the ember-orbit-example demo app.

Watch Dan give an intoduction to Orbit.js. (YouTube video from the Jan '14 Boston Ember Meetup)

How it works

  • Orbit requires that every data source support one or more common interfaces. These interfaces define how data can be both accessed and transformed.
  • The methods for accessing and transforming data return promises.
  • Multiple data sources can be involved in a single action

Orbit.js uses JSON / JSONPatch by default.

  • Sends partial data
  • Uses multiple stores

Orbit interfaces:

  1. Requestable
    • for managing requests for data via methods such as find, create, update and destroy
  2. Transformable
    • Keep data sources in sync through low level transformations (using JSON PATCH spec)
    • transform is the method your data source (prototype) object needs to implement


Events associated with an action:

  • assistFind, rescueFind, didFind, didNotFind


A single method, transform, which can be used to change the contents of a source.

{op: 'add', path: 'planet/1', value: {__id: 1, name: 'Jupiter', classification: 'gas giant'}
{op: 'replace', path: 'planet/1/name', value: 'Earth'}
{op: 'remove', path: 'planet/1'}

Orbit Common Library

Contains a set of compatible data sources, currently including: an in-memory cache, a local storage source, and a source for accessing JSON API compliant APIs with AJAX.

You can define your own data sources that will work with Orbit as long as they support Orbit's interfaces.


// Create data sources with a common schema
var schema = new OC.Schema({
  idField: '__id',
  models: {
    planet: {
      attributes: {
        name: {type: 'string'},
        classification: {type: 'string'}
var memorySource = new OC.MemorySource(schema);
var restSource = new OC.JSONAPISource(schema);
var localSource = new OC.LocalStorageSource(schema);

// Connect MemorySource -> LocalStorageSource (using the default blocking strategy)
var memToLocalConnector = new Orbit.TransformConnector(memorySource, localSource);

// Connect MemorySource <-> JSONAPISource (using the default blocking strategy)
var memToRestConnector = new Orbit.TransformConnector(memorySource, restSource);
var restToMemConnector = new Orbit.TransformConnector(restSource, memorySource);


A TransformConnector watches a transformable source and propagates any transforms to a transformable target.

Each connector is "one way", so bi-directional synchronization between sources requires the creation of two connectors.


A RequestConnector observes requests made to a primary source and allows a secondary source to either "assist" or "rescue" those requests.

The mode of a RequestConnector can be either "rescue" or "assist" ("rescue" is the default).


Document is a complete implementation of the JSON PATCH spec detailed in RFC 6902.

It can be manipulated via a transform method that accepts an operation, or with methods add, remove, replace, move, copy and test.

Data at a particular path can be retrieved from a Document with retrieve().

Code Walkthrough:


  • How to integrate Orbit.js with an Ember.js app
  • Register singleton services
  • queryFactory() <- builds up a query
  • Injected storage object
    • Instead of -> this.dataStore.find('modelName', query)
  • Creating a storeMeta as meta on a route. Pull out metadata on a route.
  • OC.MemorySource already exists. Decorating it. More of a strategy.
  • MemorySource tries to resolve request, if that (promise) fails it sends the request to the SocketSource to find.

Orbit.js custom Store for communication over a Web Socket

  • Show code examples for socket source, and socket service

MemoryStore + SocketStore + Ember.js

  • Show code examples for setting up strategy for request / transform operations

Discoveries (so far...)

  • Why am I using this instead of ember data?
  • I'm building a blog -> content management system... web sockets + orbit.js + ember.js would be really cool to use as a content management system instead of WordPress.
  • When editing content I can send the property change instead of the complete resource.
  • Speak JSONPatch over TCP is nice

Goals for continuing development

  • Dump the db resources into the client as JSON and allow the Socket communication more info.
  • Load from localStorage. Check timestamps/etags and send data operations if updated upstream.


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