Apache Isis is great for rapid prototyping, because all you need to write in order to get an application up-and-running is the domain model objects.
By focussing just on the domain, you’ll also find that you start to develop a ubiquitous language - a set of terms and concepts that the entire team (business and technologists alike) have a shared understanding.
Once you’ve sketched out your domain model, you can then either start-over using your preferred framework, or you might choose to take the domain model forward into more formal specification and testing.
One of the original motivations for Apache Isis itself was to be able automatically generate a user interface for a domain object model.
Apache Isis' has a pluggable architecture allowing different user interface technologies. The principal implementation (as configured by the SimpleApp archetype) is the Wicket viewer. This provides an appealing default user interface, with the ability to customize the user interface by writing new Apache Wicket components. Some third-party components can be found in the (non-ASF) Incode Platform.
Deploying on Apache Isis means that the framework also manages object persistence. Again this is pluggable, but the principal implementation is the JDO/DataNucleus objectstore. Because JDO supports both SQL and NoSQL databases, you can then deploy on a variety of platforms, including the Google App Engine (GAE) and Neo4J.
REST (Representation State Transfer) is an architectural style for building highly scalable distributed systems, using the same principles as the World Wide Web. Many commercial web APIs (twitter, facebook, Amazon) are implemented as either pure REST APIs or some approximation therein.
The Restful Objects specification defines a means by a domain object model can be exposed as RESTful resources using JSON representations over HTTP. Apache Isis' RestfulObjects viewer is an implementation of that spec, making any Apache Isis domain object automatically available via REST.
There are two main use cases for deploying Apache Isis as a RESTful web service are:
to allow a custom UI to be built against the RESTful API
to enable integration between systems
REST is designed to be machine-readable, and so is an excellent choice for synchronous data interchange scenarios.
As for the auto-generated webapps, the framework manages object persistence, for example using the JDO/DataNucleus objectstore. It is perfectly possible to deploy the RESTful API alongside an auto-generated webapp; both work from the same domain object model.
The programming model defined by Apache Isis deliberately minimizes the dependencies on the rest of the framework. In fact, the only hard dependency that the domain model classes have on Apache Isis is through the
org.apache.isis.applib classes, mostly to pick up annotations such as
@Property. The idea is to make it easy to be able to write take a domain object prototyped and/or tested using Apache Isis, but to deploy on some other framework’s runtime.
If you are interested in taking this approach, then you will need to provide your own implementations of any framework-provided services used by your code.
Apache Isis' own runtime injects an (implementation of this) interface into each and every domain object. You will likely need to do something similar within your own framework, (or come up with an equivalent mechanism, eg Service Locator pattern).