Guide

Installation

Assuming you are running Linux or OS X and are familiar with pip, installation is as easy as:

pip install cosmic

If you are not yet familiar with virtualenv, it is an indespensible tool for Python development. It lets you create isolated Python environments for every project you are working on. This means that different projects can depend on different versions of the same library.

If you would like to work on the bleeding edge of Cosmic development, you can clone the repo using git:

git clone https://github.com/cosmic-api/cosmic.py.git cosmic-py

Then to install the current version (ideally you want to do this in a virtualenv):

cd cosmic-py
python setup.py develop

What’s in an API?

A web API is:

  • An interface through which a server can share data and functionality with clients over the internet.
  • A component of the server architecture that glues the database and business logic to HTTP.

In the context of Cosmic, an API is represented, unsurprisingly, by an instance of the API class. What is interesting, however, is that this object is serializable to JSON. The JSON form of an API is the API spec.

You may find it strange that we say “serialize an API” when we could simply say “generate an API spec”. The reason we say this is to highlight the fact that an API is simply a Teleport datatype. The API object on the server and the API object on the client are instances of the same class, in fact, they are almost identical. The difference is that for every server endpoint, there is a hook into the server’s database or business logic, whereas each client endpoint replaces this with an HTTP call.

Let’s serialize a trivial API. Note that to_json() is a standard Teleport method:

>>> from cosmic.api import API
>>> trivia = API("trivia", homepage="http://example.com")
>>> API.to_json(trivia)
{
    u'name': 'trivia',
    u'homepage': 'http://example.com',
    u'actions': {u'map': {}, u'order': []},
    u'models': {u'map': {}, u'order': []}
}

Let’s take a look at what’s inside.

First, there is the basic metadata: the API name and homepage. The name of the API should be unique. Though this is not yet enforced by Cosmic, we plan on indexing Cosmic APIs on our website in which case it will become a requirement.

Then, the API spec contains descriptions of actions and models. These will be explained in detail in the next two sections. Here is the Teleport schema for the API type:

schema = Struct([
    required("name", String),
    optional("homepage", String),
    required("actions", OrderedMap(Struct([
        optional("accepts", Schema),
        optional("returns", Schema),
        optional("doc", String)
    ]))),
    required("models", OrderedMap(Struct([
        required("properties", OrderedMap(Struct([
            required(u"schema", Schema),
            required(u"required", Boolean),
            optional(u"doc", String)
        ]))),
        required("links", OrderedMap(Struct([
            required(u"schema", Schema),
            required(u"required", Boolean),
            optional(u"doc", String)
        ]))),
        required("query_fields", OrderedMap(Struct([
            required(u"schema", Schema),
            required(u"required", Boolean),
            optional(u"doc", String)
        ]))),
        required("methods", Struct([
            required("get_by_id", Boolean),
            required("get_list", Boolean),
            required("create", Boolean),
            required("update", Boolean),
            required("delete", Boolean),
        ])),
        required("list_metadata", OrderedMap(Struct([
            required(u"schema", Schema),
            required(u"required", Boolean),
            optional(u"doc", String)
        ])))
    ])))
])

Client and Server

In Cosmic, the same API class is used for the API server and the API client. In fact, the server and the client objects behave almost identically. After you run your server component, you can build the client in a single line of code:

>>> myapi = API.load('http://localhost:5000/spec.json')

RPC via Actions

See also

ActionEndpoint for HTTP spec.

RPC stands for remote procedure call. It allows remote clients to call procedures (functions) in your code. These are commonly implemented as POST handlers on action-style URLs, such as POST /register_user. Cosmic goes along with this convention, listening to POST requests on /actions/<name> URLs.

So what’s in an action? Clearly, we need a name in order to generate the URL. But apart from the name, Cosmic also expects type definitions for the input and output values of the action. These definitions are used for serialization, validation and help with generating documentation. Here is the Teleport schema that describes an action:

Struct([
    optional("accepts", Schema),
    optional("returns", Schema),
    optional("doc", String)
])

Actions are registered with the action() decorator:

>>> from cosmic.types import Array, Integer
>>> @mathy.action(accepts=Array(Integer), returns=Integer)
... def add(numbers):
...     return sum(numbers)
...
>>>

The function used in the action is perfectly usable:

>>> sum([1, 2, 3])
6

But now there is another way of accessing it:

>>> mathy.actions.sum([1, 2, 3])
6

And from the client, it is accessed identically:

>>> mathy = API.load('http://localhost:5000/spec.json')
>>> mathy.actions.add([1, 2, 3])
6

Now that the action has been registered, it becomes part of the spec:

>>> API.to_json(mathy)
{
    u'name': 'mathy',
    u'homepage': 'http://example.com',
    u'actions': {
        u'map': {
            u'square': {
                u'returns': {'type': 'Integer'},
                u'accepts': {'type': 'Integer'}
            }
        },
        u'order': [u'square']
    },
    u'models': {u'map': {}, u'order': []}
}

If you are not yet familiar with Teleport, you might be wondering what is the purpose of the name and order items in the actions object above. This is the way Teleport uses JSON to represent an ordered mapping. Both actions and models are contained in the Teleport’s OrderedMap type.

Both accepts and returns are optional. If no accepts schema is provided, the action will take no input data, and if the returns schema is not provided, the action will return nothing when it completes.

Normally, the action function is expected to take a single non-keyword argument. If your action needs to take multiple arguments, use the Teleport Struct type:

@mathy.action(accepts=Struct([
    required(u'numerator', Integer),
    required(u'denominator', Integer),
]), returns=Integer)
def divide(numerator, denominator):
    return numerator / denominator

This may be called remotely as:

>>> mathy = API.load('http://localhost:5000/spec.json')
>>> mathy.actions.divide(numerator=10, denominator=5)
2

Models as Data Types

Models are data type definitions attached to an API, they use Teleport schemas to describe their data.

Let’s take a look at the model object:

from cosmic.api import API
from cosmic.models import BaseModel

places = API('places')

@places.model
class Address(BaseModel):
    properties = [
        required(u"number", Integer),
        required(u"street", String),
        required(u"city", String)
    ]

As you can see, a model class should inherit from BaseModel and in order to register it with an API, you must use the model() decorator on it. Once a model has been registered with an API, it becomes accessible as part of the models namespace, for example places.models.Address.

There is a good reason model definitions are in the form of classes. In Cosmic, the objects that the model defines are represented by actual instances of the model class:

>>> sesame31 = Address(number=31, street="Sesame")
>>> sesame31.number
31
>>> sesame31.street
"Sesame"

This means that you can easily add methods to your models.

Furthermore, a model is actually a Teleport type:

>>> Address.to_json(sesame31)
{
    u"number": 31,
    u"street": "Sesame"
}

BaseModel inherits from Teleport’s BasicWrapper. If you have existing classes that you want to turn into Cosmic models, you can do so quite easily. (See Creating Custom Types in Teleport.)

Once registered with an API, a model becomes available in the models namespace. The beauty of this namespace is that it is identical on the client and server. Here is how to create an Address on the client:

>>> places = API.load('http://localhost:5000/spec.json')
>>> elm13 = places.models.Address(number=13, street="Elm")
>>> elm13.number
13

REST via Models

Models can be used to create REST-ful endpoints. A model roughly corresponds to a database table. If you want to give clients access to objects of the data type defined by the model, you also need to define a set of CRUD methods that Cosmic will turn into HTTP endpoints.

The links parameter describes relationships between models. A link from one model to another is similar to a foreign key in a relational database.

Links are defined similarly to properties:

places = API('places')

@places.model
class City(BaseModel):
    properties = [
        optional(u"name", String)
    ]

@places.model
class Address(BaseModel):
    properties = [
        required(u"number", Integer),
        required(u"street", String),
    ]
    links = [
        required(u"city", City)
    ]

And referenced similarly to properties:

>>> toronto = places.models.City(name="Toronto")
>>> spadina147 = self.places.models.Address(
...     number=147,
...     street="Spadina",
...     city=toronto)
>>> spadina147.city.name
"Toronto"

These models are merely data type definitions, they do not have REST endpoints because they are not connected to any database. How do you know? You can try this:

>> spadina147.id is None
True

If apart from defining a data type we also want to provide access to a collection of objects of this data type, there are 4 methods that Cosmic allows us to override. These methods correspond to 5 HTTP endpoints. Cosmic decides whether the endpoints should be created or not based on whether the methods have been defined. This behavior can be overridden by setting the methods property on the model class.

get_by_id

See also

GetByIdEndpoint for HTTP spec.

The simplest method to implement is get_by_id(). It takes a single parameter (an id is always a string) and returns a model class instance (or None, if no model is found):

places = API('places')

@places.model
class City(BaseModel):
    methods = ["get_by_id"]
    properties = [
        optional(u"name", String)
    ]

    @classmethod
    def get_by_id(cls, id):
        if id in cities:
            return cities[id]
        else:
            return None

cities = {
    "0": City(name="Toronto", id="0"),
    "1": City(name="San Francisco", id="1"),
}

As you can see, Cosmic doesn’t care what kind of database you use, as long as the method returns the right value. Now if we want to use this method, we can do:

>>> city = places.models.City.get_by_id("1")
>>> city.name
"San Francisco"
>>> places.models.City.get_by_id("5") is None
True

save

See also

CreateEndpoint and UpdateEndpoint for HTTP spec.

The save() method is actually used for two different operations: saving and updating. On the HTTP level they are two distinct HTTP endpoints.

@places.model
class City(BaseModel):
    methods = ['create', 'update']
    properties = [
        optional(u"name", String)
    ]

    def save(self):
        if self.id is None:
            # Create new id
            self.id = str(len(cities))
        cities[self.id] = self

When implementing this function on the server side, you should check for the model’s id property. If set, you should update, if not set, you should save, creating a new id in the process. On the client side, whether id is set will determine which HTTP call to make. If save() is called on a model with no id, then if the call completes successfully, an id will be set:

>>> city = City(name="Moscow")
>>> city.id is None
True
>>> city.save()
>>> city.id
"2"

To add extra validation to a model, you can override the validate() method. This method gets called after the model schema has been used to deserialize the data and before the model object gets instantiated. Here is a validate() method for City:

@classmethod
def validate(cls, datum):
    if datum[u"name"][0].islower():
        raise ValidationError("Name must be capitalized", datum["name"])

A ValidationError will be raised if you try to save an invalid model from a remote client:

>>> places = API.load('http://localhost:5000/spec.json')
>>> moscow = places.models.City(name="moscow")
>>> moscow.save()
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
  File "cosmic/api.py", line 85, in save
    inst = self.__class__._list_poster(self)
  File "cosmic/http.py", line 287, in __call__
    return self.api.client_hook.call(self, *args, **kwargs)
  File "cosmic/http.py", line 27, in call
    return self.parse_response(endpoint, res)
  File "cosmic/http.py", line 33, in parse_response
    return endpoint.parse_response(res)
  File "cosmic/http.py", line 596, in parse_response
    res = super(CreateEndpoint, self).parse_response(res)
  File "cosmic/http.py", line 273, in parse_response
    raise ValidationError(r['json'].datum.get('error', ''))
teleport.ValidationError: Name must be capitalized: u'moscow'

delete

See also

DeleteEndpoint for HTTP spec.

The delete() method, upon deleting the object, returns nothing.

@places.model
class City(BaseModel):
    methods = ['get_by_id', 'delete']
    properties = [
        optional(u"name", String)
    ]

    @classmethod
    def get_by_id(cls, id):
        if id in cities:
            return cities[id]
        else:
            return None

    def delete(self):
        del cities[self.id]

After being called, the instance will still be there but it should be considered invalid. If you try to fetch the object with the deleted id using get_by_id(), None will be returned.

>>> city = places.models.City.get_by_id("0")
>>> city.delete()
>>> places.models.City.get_by_id("0") is None
True

get_list

See also

GetListEndpoint for HTTP spec.

The get_list() method takes keyword arguments as specified by the query_fields model property. This schema is used to serialize them into a URL query string with the help of URLParams.

@places.model
class City(BaseModel):
    methods = ['get_list']
    properties = [
        optional(u"name", String)
    ]
    query_fields = [
        optional(u"country", String)
    ]

    @classmethod
    def get_list(cls, country=None):
        if country is None:
            return cities.values()
        elif country == "Canada":
            return [cities[0]]
        elif country == "USA":
            return [cities[1]]
        else:
            return []

The return value of this function is a (possibly empty) list of model instances:

>>> l = places.models.City.get_list()
>>> len(l)
2
>>> l = places.models.City.get_list(country="Canada")
>>> len(l)
1
>>> l[0].name
"Toronto"
>>> places.models.City.get_list(country="Russia")
[]

You are free to invent your own pagination schemes using custom query fields.

Often it will be useful to return metadata along with the items, for example, the total count if the list is paginated, or a timestamp. You can specify this by including the list_metadata attribute.

@places.model
class City(BaseModel):
    methods = ['get_list']
    properties = [
        optional(u"name", String)
    ]
    query_fields = [
        optional(u"country", String)
    ]
    list_metadata = [
        required(u"last_updated", DateTime)
    ]

    @classmethod
    def get_list(cls, country=None):
        metadata = {"last_updated": datetime.datetime.now()}
        if country is None:
            return (cities.values(), metadata)
        elif country == "Canada":
            return ([cities[0]], metadata)
        elif country == "USA":
            return ([cities[1]], metadata)
        else:
            return ([], metadata)

As you can see, when list_metadata is specified, the return value of get_list() is a tuple, where the first item is the list, and the second is a dict containing the metadata.

Authentication

Currently, Cosmic does not provide a standard authentication mechanism. It does provide powerful HTTP hooks which can be used to implement different authentication schemes.

On the server, you can override your API’s server_hook property with an instance of a custom subclass ServerHook. On the client, you can override client_hook with an instance of a subclass of ClientHook. These classes are symmetrically similar, each of them provides three methods to override. Let’s override the view() method of ServerHook to enable our API to verify user credentials.

from flask import make_response
from cosmic.api import API
from cosmic.http import ServerHook

planetarium = API("planetarium")

class CustomServerHook(ServerHook):

    def view(self, endpoint, request, **url_args):
        if not endpoint.never_authenticate:
            if request.headers.get('Authorization', None) != 'secret':
                return make_response("", 401, {'WWW-Authenticate': 'MyAuth'})
        return super(CustomServerHook, self).view(endpoint, request, **url_args)

planetarium.server_hook = CustomServerHook()

In this example, we check for credentials provided in the Authorization header. If they are missing or wrong, we return a 401 response, asking for authentication via the WWW-Authenticate header.

Now let’s implement a hook on the client to add credentials to every request that needs it.

from cosmic.api import API
from cosmic.http import ClientHook

planetarium = API.load('https://api.planetarium.com/spec.json')

class CustomClientHook(ClientHook):

    def build_request(self, endpoint, *args, **kwargs):
        request = super(ClientHook, self).build_request(endpoint, *args, **kwargs)
        request.headers["Authorization"] = "secret"
        return request

This should be enough to get authentication working between client and server.