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RIAmashupsAJAX 20 Mar 2008 7:20 AM
A (half) Day in the Life of AJAX World by prichards

Tuesday was the initial half-day session of speakers, with the keynote, welcome meetings, exhibitors and real kick-off Wed morning. Tuesday's sessions were overcrowded – I don’t think they anticipated that many general attendance folks today as some were in a special AJAX security botcmap (and should havelarger rooms tomorrow).

I was able to attend a couple of IBM presentations regarding mash-ups, which were a little light as they focused specifically on a new IBM Enterprise Mashup Server product they are releasing, and little on actual AJAX capabilities. In typical large-scale product development fashion, the answer to many of the questions regarding features was “that’s in the plan; probably about 18 months”! However, the trend was interesting – the goal is to bring together a system that allows Enterprise business users (not developers) the capability to build their own interface by dragging “mashup” objects to a screen and connecting them to existing feeds. The “widgets” at several levels (GUI, page-aware, etc.) are preconfigured and coded by developers, but managed by the user using the Mashup server tools. IBM views this as a potential major prodcut in their future line-up.

Two other presentations were more interesting, with a light focus on AJAX details.

In fact, the first, “Picking the Right RIA tools” presented a strong case that the only viable tool for Enterprise RIA apps today is Adobe Flex. This is due to market penetration of Flash player (98% of all machines), the extensive GUI capabilities to write once and run on any browser, and especially the fast communication protocols (AMF and RTMP). AJAX compares favorably with runtime capability (HTML and Javascript are all that is needed – on every browser, but not the same for each). But it has the disadvantage of over 100 frameworks to choose from (and lock into), having to write code for each browser, and HTTP as the protocol (too slow for Enterprise apps, e.g. returning 20K rows). The speaker also thinks Silverlight will be a major player in a year (v1.0 not ready, 2.0 just announced) largely because it is Microsoft, and Sun is behind the curve with JavaFX (and Java) but should be competitive in 2010. I heard from another attendee, that a different speaker presented almost the same position with reagrd to Flex.

The last speaker from an SI company building SOA applications postured that AJAX is the “perfect consumer” for SOA services. His premise was that Enterprise SOA implementations need to start with pilots that include GUI. Too many fail by building just data web services - which is the core for the long-term business ROI - but the business users don’t see the value right away because they don’t see how it helps their apps (and the projects stall/die). He stated that the pilot/projects should include GUI immediately, and that AJAX can provide reusable GUI capabilities with the data services. Another premise was that business users are happier with their consumer apps than business systems, and that the trend is for the consumer GUI capabilities from consumer apps, social networks, mobile apps, etc. to start making their way into Enterprise apps. He also did not provide concrete/detailed examples of AJAX GUIs/widgets/reusable components.

After the conference, I'll should receive a DVD of the filmed sessions for XAware folks interested.

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