Welcome!

Release Management Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, David H Deans, Liz McMillan, Jnan Dash

Related Topics: Machine Learning , Java IoT, Adobe Flex, Agile Computing

Machine Learning : Article

Rich Internet Applications - State of the Union

What's your technology choice for implementing RIA?

AJAX

 While the term AJAX was coined by Jesse James Garret in February of 2005 and is partly rooted in the asynchronous XmlHttpRequest implemented by Mozilla, lots of developers have used Microsoft's version of XMLHttpRequest and alternative techniques like IFrame since 1999. These techniques facilitate synchronous and asynchronous communications between the script in a page and server-side code. The main problem with AJAX is that despite its popularity it has no technical foundation. While the other solutions we mention here are based on rock-solid virtual machines, there's no standard VM for AJAX. Each browser implements AJAX building blocks differently. There's a chance that deployed AJAX application will require code changes with each new browser release. Wait, let's rephrase that: there's a chance that a deployed AJAX apps may run as is on a new browser release. Do you want to take chances with your business?
 That said, Internet giants like Google, Yahoo, and Amazon are building AJAX apps on top of their own abstraction layers such as Google Web Toolkit (GWT). Because of the immature level of the technology, these abstract layers need constant vendor attention as soon as changes appear.

AJAX Shortcomings

 An ability to create flicker-free Web apps without buying more software is AJAX's big appeal. You may have heard the chant "AJAX is free." Here's the simple translation: no commercial AJAX tool is worth paying for. There are hundreds of libraries, toolkits, and control sets that give you the impression that AJAX applications are cheap to develop and strategically safe since there's no vendor lock-in. Actually, there is vendor locking because you won't manually write JavaScript code and will have to pick an AJAX library of some vendor. Now think about it: starting from the ground up you need a communication layer, messaging and remoting mechanisms, an HTTP sniffer, a library of UI components with shared objects and event models, a visual IDE that understands these components in design time, and a debugger that accommodates all this stuff. On top of that, there's internationalization support, accessibility for the disabled, and support for automated testing tools.
 You really think you're safe with mix-and-match from different vendors? If the answer is yes, you must be working for a software company in the RIA business. Coming to reality, long development cycle, lack of free quality GUI components, and the shortcomings listed below make AJAX less appealing and, actually, the most expensive way of creating RIAs.
 These are some of AJAX's current drawbacks:

JavaScript development tools are limited due to the dynamic nature of the language, and debugging any DHTML/JavaScript mix is a pain. Yes, Google's GWT can spare you from writing JavaScript manually, but at the end of the day, it's still JavaScript that has to be deployed in production. When the system isn't working and time is limited, what are you going to use to debug it - the real page of Java mock-up?

Tons of JavaScript source code has to go over the wire to the client to be interpreted by the browser. We're talking about business applications, not some proof-of-concept demo.

Web browsers will happily display your application even if a piece of JavaScript didn't arrive at the client. You won't know of a problem exists until you execute the particular use case.

A simple right-click followed by the "View Source code" menu option would reveal your business application code. Better yet, all this code resides as plain text in the browser cache on disk. Because of this, you have to drop all the code comments and use obfuscators to protect your code from being stolen.

HTML rendering is slow: think of a data grid that contains 5,000 records. How long are you ready to wait for your sales report?

Any data manipulation by JavaScript is inherently slow because JavaScript is an interpreted, not a compiled language. We're talking thousand of times slow.

The code is more vulnerable to hacker attack, a fact that was proved recently by a worm that stole a bunch of mail addresses from Yahoo address books.

AJAX doesn't support server push. The server-side application can't publish the data directly to the client. AJAX applications have to poll the data from the server at specified time intervals without knowing if the data is there or not.
It's not easy to find good AJAX programmers.

To summarize, if you're developing a new enterprise business RIA from scratch, AJAX may not be the way to go. Choose a solid application development environment that offers a virtual machine at runtime like Flex/Flash, Java, or WPF. Any of these environments is more productive than AJAX. If you already have AJAX applications you can nicely integrate new Flex RIAs in existing AJAX applications using tools like FABridge from Adobe for communicating between AJAX and Flex.

During AJAX's first year of life, every article or book on the subject mentioned Google Maps and Gmail, and various type-ahead samples: you enter the first zip code digit in a text field, and it suggests your possible choices based on your input without a page refresh. Today, you can read about a number of AJAX applications, including ones that work with photo images loaded from the popular flickr.com Web site.

Lastly, I'd like to make it clear that popular comparisons of Flex versus AJAX are simply wrong, since Flex is a framework and complete development platform, while AJAX is a set of techniques. To compare apples to apples, you should compare products like Flex against GWT (Google) and the like.


Other RIA Solutions

OpenLaszlo

 OpenLaszlo  from Laszlo Systems is an open source product that lets you create applications that can be deployed as DHTML or Flash Player files.   The ability to generate DHTML code made it a good candidate for developing applications for mobile devices, and Sun Microsystems has recently partnered with Laszlo Systems to bring this technology to the Java mobile space. This is direct competition for Adobe Flash Lite.

GWT

GWT stands for Google Web Toolkit lets you write programs in Java and convert them to JavaScript so they can be delivered as AJAX Web applications.
 An interesting GWT feature is that it compiles Java into various versions of JavaScript to accommodate the specific needs of different Web browsers. GWT comes with a library of extensible components. The number of these components was limited, but that will probably change soon, because it's Google.

NexaWeb

NexaWeb  offers a Java-based thin client that doesn't require any additional installation on the user's desktop. The application's state is controlled by a small Java applet running on the client. This applet communicates with the NexaWeb Java EE application as needed. To avoid issues related to the version of the Java Runtime Environment installed with the Web browser, NexaWeb uses JRE 1.1 for its applet.


More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

Comments (4) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Ajax_is_a_hack 02/23/08 05:38:33 PM EST

Hey Yakov, check out this:

http://mx.sys-con.com/read/499659.htm

OpenLaszlo - yeah, it's an *alternative*, but let's be honest--other than it not being backed by a major commercial developer (which many see as a good thing)--it doesn't have Flex beat on much of anything. (Flex is open source too...) I've read some other admittedly less biased comparisons and OpenLaszlo was graded lower I think in every category.

jeff_s 02/11/08 04:22:03 PM EST

This blog is certainly not an unbiased analysis, even though it's pretending to be just that.

The article is basically "Flex rules, everything else drools".

It goes on and on about the good things about Flex, while giving only cursory coverage of Flex drawbacks. Meanwhile, it's just the opposite regarding the other technologies, going on and on about drawbacks, and giving only cursory coverage of advantages.

Case in point, Yakov says that Java Swing development is "hugely expensive". Nonsense. First, NetBeans is completely free, and NetBeans has the wonderful Matisse GUI designer, making the development of great looking Swing UIs a snap. Second, there is JavaFX, which is an XML based declarative scripting language that is used to quickly build rich Swing UIs super easy, and is very similar to MXML/Action Script, as is featured in Yakov's beloved Flex. Third, there is a plethora of third party libraries and controls in the Swing ecosystem, that further extends Swing capabilities, and makes Swing development easier.

Then, Yakov fails to mention how expensive Flex Builder is (which, to be honest, you'll need to be truly productive with Flex), to the tune of $249 (as opposed to Free for NetBeans).

Then Yakov goes on to say one of the drawbacks of Ajax is that it involves JavaScript. Wait a minute - JavaScript is based on EcmaScript, which Flex/Flash's Action is also based on. So Yakov, why does that syntax suck for one technology (Ajax), but it's great for another technology (Flex/ActionScript). C'mon.

Yakov also completely fails to mention how much of a CPU hog Flash can be, especially on older/budget machines (which, let's face it, are quite common in the business world). So if you do a RIA with Flex, which is running in the Flash VM, you're going to get a lot of end users (corporate workers) complaining.

Flex is quite good, and has it's advantages and disadvantages. Same with the other technologies mentioned in this article.

But Yakov's article is completely biased in favor of Flex. That's fine, as Yakov has long been singing Flex praises. But he's presenting this article as a fair analysis, when it's anything but.

Thus, anyone reading this article should take it with a grain of salt.

Yakov Fain 02/19/07 07:49:38 AM EST

Sebastien, not only I've mentioned OpenLaszlo in the article, but I also published my interview with the creator of OpenLaszlo:
http://java.sys-con.com/read/337118.htm

Am I cleared now or should remain ashamed?
:)

Sébastien Arbogast 02/18/07 05:43:34 PM EST

It's such a shame that you don't even mention OpenLaszlo as an alternative for Adobe Flex...

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
Cell networks have the advantage of long-range communications, reaching an estimated 90% of the world. But cell networks such as 2G, 3G and LTE consume lots of power and were designed for connecting people. They are not optimized for low- or battery-powered devices or for IoT applications with infrequently transmitted data. Cell IoT modules that support narrow-band IoT and 4G cell networks will enable cell connectivity, device management, and app enablement for low-power wide-area network IoT. B...
The hierarchical architecture that distributes "compute" within the network specially at the edge can enable new services by harnessing emerging technologies. But Edge-Compute comes at increased cost that needs to be managed and potentially augmented by creative architecture solutions as there will always a catching-up with the capacity demands. Processing power in smartphones has enhanced YoY and there is increasingly spare compute capacity that can be potentially pooled. Uber has successfully ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...