LinkedIn Open Sources Mobile Data Framework

The mobile framework for iOS scales better than Apple’s Core Data and speeds up data-intensive apps, LinkedIn says

Business social network LinkedIn has published an open source a data management system it says can help speed up mobile applications for Apple’s iOS, particularly those that handle large amounts of data.

LinkedIn said the framework, called Rocket Data, is intended as an alternative to Apple’s own Core Data, used in iOS and Mac OS.

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“Core Data is a powerful framework, but it pays for this power with complexity,” said LinkedIn developer Peter Livesey in a blog post. “The framework is notorious for crashing the application when something goes wrong.”

Rocket Data originated with a rewrite of LinkedIn’s iOS mobile application that began early last year, according to Livesey.

The company wanted a caching system that would present content to the user while data was still being loaded from the network, but didn’t want to use Core Data due to its tendency to crash the application and because it didn’t scale well, Livesey said.

LinkedIn also wanted to use immutable data models, in which all the data remains in place, unlike the mutable models employed by Core Data, in which new values overwrite old values.

The resulting model management system uses immutable models, managing their consistency and caching.

Performance benefits

“Rocket Data scales extremely well to large numbers of models and data providers,” LinkedIn said in the framework’s documentation. “Since it does nearly all of its work on a background thread, you never need to worry about one change slowing down the whole application.”

LinkedIn was able to add caching to all its application’s features with “very little” additional development work, Livesey said.

The company has made the project available on GitHub.

Mobile apps are increasingly used to handle heavy-duty data processing tasks as devices such as smartphones and tablets become standard tools for businesses and consumers, with usage of mobile banking services, for instance, growing rapidly while online banking usage levels off.

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