DataSources are the link between models and the source of data that models represent. In many cases, the data is retrieved from a relational database such as MySQL, PostgreSQL or MSSQL. CakePHP is distributed with several database-specific datasources (see the dbo_* class files in cake/libs/model/datasources/dbo/), a summary of which is listed here for your convenience:

  • dbo_adodb.php

  • dbo_db2.php

  • dbo_firebird.php

  • dbo_mssql.php

  • dbo_mysql.php

  • dbo_mysqli.php

  • dbo_odbc.php

  • dbo_oracle.php

  • dbo_postgres.php

  • dbo_sqlite.php

  • dbo_sybase.php

When specifying a database connection configuration in app/config/database.php, CakePHP transparently uses the corresponding database datasource for all model operations. So, even though you might not have known about datasources, you’ve been using them all along.

All of the above sources derive from a base DboSource class, which aggregates some logic that is common to most relational databases. If you decide to write a RDBMS datasource, working from one of these (e.g. dbo_mysql.php or dbo_mssql.php) is your best bet.

Most people, however, are interested in writing datasources for external sources of data, such as remote REST APIs or even an LDAP server. So that’s what we’re going to look at now.

Basic API For DataSources

A datasource can, and should implement at least one of the following methods: create, read, update and/or delete (the actual method signatures & implementation details are not important for the moment, and will be described later). You need not implement more of the methods listed above than necessary - if you need a read-only datasource, there’s no reason to implement create and update.

Methods that must be implemented

  • describe($model)

  • listSources()

  • At least one of:

    • create($model, $fields = array(), $values = array())

    • read($model, $queryData = array())

    • update($model, $fields = array(), $values = array())

    • delete($model, $id = null)

It is also possible (and sometimes quite useful) to define the $_schema class attribute inside the datasource itself, instead of in the model.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it. By coupling this datasource to a model, you are then able to use Model::find()/save() as you would normally, and the appropriate data and/or parameters used to call those methods will be passed on to the datasource itself, where you can decide to implement whichever features you need (e.g. Model::find options such as 'conditions' parsing, 'limit' or even your own custom parameters).

An Example

Here is a simple example of how to use Datasources and HttpSocket to implement a very basic Twitter source that allows querying the Twitter API as well as posting new status updates to a configured account.

This example will only work in PHP 5.2 and above, due to the use of json_decode for the parsing of JSON formatted data.

You would place the Twitter datasource in app/models/datasources/twitter_source.php:

 * Twitter DataSource
 * Used for reading and writing to Twitter, through models.
 * PHP Version 5.x
 * CakePHP(tm) : Rapid Development Framework (
 * Copyright 2005-2009, Cake Software Foundation, Inc. (
 * Licensed under The MIT License
 * Redistributions of files must retain the above copyright notice.
 * @filesource
 * @copyright     Copyright 2009, Cake Software Foundation, Inc. (
 * @link CakePHP(tm) Project
 * @license The MIT License
App::import('Core', 'HttpSocket');
class TwitterSource extends DataSource {
    protected $_schema = array(
        'tweets' => array(
            'id' => array(
                'type' => 'integer',
                'null' => true,
                'key' => 'primary',
                'length' => 11,
            'text' => array(
                'type' => 'string',
                'null' => true,
                'key' => 'primary',
                'length' => 140
            'status' => array(
                'type' => 'string',
                'null' => true,
                'key' => 'primary',
                'length' => 140
    public function __construct($config) {
        $auth = "{$config['login']}:{$config['password']}";
        $this->connection = new HttpSocket(
    public function listSources() {
        return array('tweets');
    public function read($model, $queryData = array()) {
        if (!isset($queryData['conditions']['username'])) {
            $queryData['conditions']['username'] = $this->config['login'];
        $url = "/statuses/user_timeline/";
        $url .= "{$queryData['conditions']['username']}.json";

        $response = json_decode($this->connection->get($url), true);
        $results = array();

        foreach ($response as $record) {
            $record = array('Tweet' => $record);
            $record['User'] = $record['Tweet']['user'];
            $results[] = $record;
        return $results;
    public function create($model, $fields = array(), $values = array()) {
        $data = array_combine($fields, $values);
        $result = $this->connection->post('/statuses/update.json', $data);
        $result = json_decode($result, true);
        if (isset($result['id']) && is_numeric($result['id'])) {
            return true;
        return false;
    public function describe($model) {
        return $this->_schema['tweets'];

Your model implementation could be as simple as:

class Tweet extends AppModel {
    public $useDbConfig = 'twitter';

If we had not defined our schema in the datasource itself, you would get an error message to that effect here.

And the configuration settings in your app/config/database.php would resemble something like this:

    var $twitter = array(
        'datasource' => 'twitter',
        'login' => 'username',
        'password' => 'password',

Using the familiar model methods from a controller:

// Will use the username defined in the $twitter as shown above:
$tweets = $this->Tweet->find('all');

// Finds tweets by another username
$conditions= array('username' => 'caketest');
$otherTweets = $this->Tweet->find('all', compact('conditions'));

Similarly, saving a new status update:

$this->Tweet->save(array('status' => 'This is an update'));