What started on April 16th and finished on April 19th was the #WorldInnovationDay Hackathon. ~4000 people in attendance in Slack (organisers, mentors, participants and observers). At the time of writing this, there was the overpowering feeling of exhaustion and contentment with what has just transpired. (I will write another blog about some of the technology used). Let’s review some of what I saw as a Lead Mentor.
Adding security over the APIs across multiple layers was something that we considered when putting this project together. This perspective was reinforced at the #DigitalDefence hackathon in Nov 2020. Check out what happened (here).
Here we will focus on the different REST APIs exposing the data hosted by Autonomous Data Warehouse. We started off with HTTP Basic Authentication but quickly turned to using OAuth. Here we’ll explore more about the OAuth side and how to get that started.
I’ve started posting articles related to the project that @stantanev and a few of us are working on. This is snapshot of the puzzle that is to build out a APIs on the Oracle Always Free Tier.
As a demonstration of capability, we built a few different APIs using fnproject (https://fnproject.io/) – an open-source container-native serverless platform. As part of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, there’s Oracle Functions which is the managed Function-as-a-Service based upon this same project.
Let’s take a look at it here and see what it took to get going. Also, this is being deployed into VM.Standard.E2.1.Micro compute shapes (which is 1 OCPU and 1GB of memory) and hence there are some considerations to make sure we get the most out of the kit we have access to (for free).
I would like to show how OIC log management can be achieved with OCI Object Storage (I’ll call it bucket) and OCI Logging Analytics, Visual Builder Studio (used to be Developer Cloud, I’ll call it VB Studio).
Interestingly I’m not going to use OIC to download log files, either to ingest log data from OCI Object Storage. VB Studio will be my tool to do sourcing log files and feeding it to bucket – I’ll be taking advantage of unix shell and oct-cli from VB Studio. Then OCI Logging Analytics will ingest log data from bucket based on cloud event.
Between the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) Audit Service recording administrative operations and Oracle Identity Cloud Service (IDCS) tracking access and user management events, Oracle Cloud provides pretty comprehensive tracking of security events. Recently however, I have been in conversations with a number of organisations who have been seeking longer term retention of audit events for several different reasons, including governance, compliance and forensic requirements. The OCI Audit service supports requesting bulk export of audit events to Object Storage, which allows you manage the retention and archiving of those events yourself, so I started wondering if I could do the same for the IDCS access events. A bit of testing and some simple coding later, and I had events being pulled directly from the IDCS Audit Events API periodically and sent to Object Storage for retention.
In this blog post, I will provide this code as a sample, and discuss some of the techniques and technologies that are available in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure to enable simple, but highly secure and cost-effective, automation of cross-service tasks such as this.
Version 1.0.0 of the Consumer Data Right standard was released in September, and it introduces a common set of Banking APIs in line with Australian government legislation. The principles behind the standards design are very solid, though the some of the specific requirements are pretty wild and they result in a bit of rethinking of some of the classical API conventions. The most prominent example of this is the approach the CDR standards take towards ‘object identifiers’, in the ID Permanence section, and I considered the requirements for this interesting enough to spend some time thinking about and documenting.
In this context, an ‘object identifier’ refers to the way in
which you refer to an individual instance of an object from your API, such as
the ‘accountId’ in the following URI:
In this blog post we will look at what the CDR requires for these types of identifiers, and provide some sample code which implements the obfuscation requirements specified in the standard.
In a previous blog, I showed how to develop microservices to connect to Autonomous Databases and consume data (read/write) via REST APIs. Although I still highly recommend that approach, the reality is that there is an easier way to do it using Oracle REST Data Services modules that come included with any Oracle Autonomous Database (ADW/ATP).
This way you simply have to:
Configure the API endpoint (Method + URL) that you want to expose as a REST API
Define the underlying SQL statement that will serve to your endpoint (i.e. SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE statements or a more complex PL/SQL script)
Define the security mechanism to properly protect your APIs
That’s pretty much it, this should be a very quick, yet powerful alternative to building your own microservices to consume data from Autonomous DBs.
Oracle’s Cloud Infrastructure has been designed in an API-first manner, which is awesome for all sorts of infrastructure automation tasks. It also implements an interesting API security model, in which all requests must be signed using a private key, associated with a public key which has already been configured in OCI (here, the developers are showing their infrastructure roots, as this echoes how SSH Auth is normally handled). The documentation of this model provides sample code in a number of languages, which is perfect if you are writing automation scripts, but is a little inflexible for ad-hoc testing. Typically I much prefer to use a rich graphical REST client, such a Postman, so that I can easily tweak my parameters and try out different types of calls before I write any code. Unfortunately while Postman is well equipped for Basic and Token based Auth, HTTP-Signature is not natively implemented, and rather than abandon Postman for a new tool, I set out to implement it using Postman’s powerful scripting capabilities. In this blog post I provide the result of this, which is a downloadable collection which provides all of the required scripts, and discuss the approach used.
Recently I built a Facial Recognition Mobile App using Oracle Visual Builder having set up the Facial recognition APIs using Tensorflow taking some inspiration from FaceNet. As highlighted above the app does the following: record a video of your face and send it to the API that generates various images and classifies them based on the label we provide at runtime. And in turn, invoke another API that is going to train the machine learning model to update the dataset with the new images and label provided. These two APIs will build a facial recognition Database. Once I have this, I can capture the face and compare that with the dataset I have captured earlier in my Facial recognition Database to output if the face exists in our system.
Here is a quick cheat sheet if you ever wanted to build a mobile app that can take advantage of the camera built into the device, capture the vehicle or vehicles nameplate(s) in a frame and process that image and send it on API that can analyze the image and relay back the information it just scanned. This app can be extended to fulfil requirements like checking if the vehicle registration is up to date or insurance renewal is overdue etc. provided if there are APIs already available that can deliver this information.
So what is the tech involved in building this app?
To build a mobile app that can be deployed on iOS or Android, I used the Visual Builder service from the Oracle Cloud stack. This service provides the capability to build Web as well as Mobile applications through a declarative approach with the ability to introduce code for any complex requirements.
To store the captured image and use the image for downstream application purposes I used the OracleContent & Experience service that comes with a rich set of APIs for content ingestion, public document link generation etc. From an enterprise architecture viewpoint, it makes sense to store the images with metadata in a content store, so I decided to archive the image using this service as part of the mobile app build process.
The most significant bit is to use a library / API that can process the image or OCR and send back the information we are interested n. For these purposes, I used the open source ALPR library. There are API’s available already if you want to fast track your app.
This one is optional. If you want to validate the information captured, we can set up a few API’s using the Oracle Autonomous Database with some data to complete the validation flow in the app.