Welcome!

Weblogic Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Michael Meiner, Michael Bushong, Avi Rosenthal

Related Topics: Machine Learning , SYS-CON MEDIA

Machine Learning : Article

How to Choose an RIA Path: AJAX or Adobe?

AJAX is the best bet for experienced Web development shops looking to incrementally evolve existing Web applications

Developers and architects may salivate over the technical merits of AJAX, but managers should note that using AJAX frameworks also introduces risk. Unmanaged, these risks can increase costs or derail a development effort entirely. For example:
  • It's easy to choose the wrong AJAX framework. There are dozens of popular AJAX frameworks, and they are not created equal. Developers might want to cut a check based solely on a framework's rich widget set or light-speed performance, but architects will need to validate that the framework supports corporate standards for security, accessibility, service integration, and data access.
  • Finding best-of-breed AJAX development tools is difficult. Experienced Web developers don't mind writing JavaScript and XML in text editors, but most developers in enterprise IT shops prefer visual designers and WYSIWYG editing tools. When it comes to AJAX, the only such tool support available at present is tied to commercial AJAX frameworks, meaning that the choice of one is necessarily a choice of the other.
  • Cross-browser compatibility issues increase testing costs for AJAX. Testing costs increase in direct proportion to the number of browser platforms and versions to be supported. However, using a commercial AJAX framework can mitigate these costs, as the framework vendor incurs the cost of cross-browser testing. For example, Software AG certifies its cross-vision Application Composer on multiple versions of browsers like Internet Explorer, Mozilla, and Netscape.
The AJAX Path Itself Forks with Homegrown, Open Source, and Commercial Alternatives
Just because a development team has chosen to go with AJAX doesn't mean that its tool selection effort is complete. There remains the important decision of how many and what type of AJAX frameworks to use. Today there are three types:
  • Many developers create their own frameworks. Development teams create their own AJAX widgets when they need customized controls that work in a specific way.
  • Other developers build on top of open source frameworks. Open source communities engage in a constant process of peer review, which quickly separates good design from bad. This leads to successful projects maturing quickly, while poor frameworks lose critical mass. When selecting an open source framework, look for active development communities with committed corporate sponsors, as this is an indication of longevity. OpenLaszlo, Dojo, and the Google Web Toolkit (GWT), for example, are supported by corporate sponsors like Laszlo Systems, IBM, AOL, and Google.
  • Commercial frameworks provide a throat to choke. Commercial AJAX vendors provide support and certification of their products, which is appealing for managers who are uncomfortable taking the open source route. They also focus on providing capabilities that enterprise developers require, including high-performance clients and tooling that makes it easy for developers to connect to enterprise applications.
Just as there are myriad AJAX frameworks, there are also myriad AJAX framework selection criteria. These criteria fall into five buckets: customizability; security and accessibility; widget set; tooling; and cross-browser support. But not all of these criteria should be weighted equally (see Figure 1).

Adobe's Solution Is Powerful, Predictable, and Productive
Adobe is an attractive RIA solution because it combines powerful development tools (Flex) with a near-universal browser plug-in (Flash) that's designed to simplify RIA deployment. Managers who have concerns about small commercial AJAX providers or support issues with open source AJAX frameworks consider Flex a safe alternative. But there is a downside: To be productive in Flex, developers have to learn two new languages and an extensive runtime framework — something that can take between one and three months to learn. Once this initial hurdle is cleared, Adobe adopters see the following benefits:

  • Widespread adoption of Flash speeds deployment. When Flash is already installed, application deployment requires no additional changes to the user's desktop. Unlike AJAX, Flash doesn't require browser-specific code or enablement of JavaScript in the user's browser.
  • Flex works well for large-scale RIAs. Large-scale user productivity applications are often designed with conversation flows that require access to business data and rules to drive application context. Flex makes it easy for developers to provide the right business context and flow while keeping response times to a minimum.
  • Flex is evolving quickly and has a predictable trajectory. Adobe has invested heavily in Flex, and the result has been sustained improvement from release to release. In contrast, the future of AJAX depends on the whims of a dozen vendors and open source projects that aren't even loosely federated. In the words of one architect we spoke with, Flex is "one support framework to rely on, not dozens to integrate."
  • Flex Builder improves developer productivity and collaboration with designers. Flex Builder provides developers with a visual, WYSIWYG experience on a par with the best commercial tools for AJAX. What sets Flex Builder apart from these tools, though, are features that improve collaboration between developers and designers. Using Flex lets developers and designers at the American Cancer Society rapidly iterate through design changes and preview them with stakeholders within hours.
Flex Developers Are Hard to Find and Other Drawbacks of Flex
But Adobe isn't perfect. App dev professionals should consider the following Adobe drawbacks:
  • Flex developers are difficult to locate and command a premium rate. Flex developers are harder to find and more expensive to retain than AJAX developers: In the United States, they start at $60,000 and top out around $120,000. One executive at a North American financial services firm we spoke with had to retain talent from South Africa and the Czech Republic to deliver a successful project. As more developers ramp up on Flex this issue will subside, but for now it makes Flex more expensive in the short-term than Ajax.
  • Flash upgrade issues can defeat the deployment value proposition. When users aren't on the latest version of Flash, requiring them to upgrade is risky because almost half will abandon the site. Many are unwilling to wait through the lengthy install process and instead choose to do business elsewhere — potentially with the competition.
  • Success can create an unexpected user response. Flash is a broad graphical canvas, and Flex allows designers to push the boundaries of rich media further than AJAX does. This can lead to a situation where users become distracted by a mix of Flash's rich media and Flex's new controls. IT organizations can avoid this response by introducing rich media gradually and frequently conducting A/B testing with focus groups.
Which RIA Technology Is Best for You?
When aggressive developers push the boundaries of RIA development, they quickly run into barriers that affect their ability to take full advantage of RIA technology. Firms interviewed recently by Forrester Research cited several barriers to their RIA development efforts that no tooling available today could overcome (see Figure 2).

In selecting an RIA technology, application development professionals should choose AJAX when time-to-market is critical and updates are frequent. Experienced Web developers ramp up on AJAX quickly. AJAX also makes it easy to build RIA capabilities into existing apps with small, frequent releases. Finally, AJAX's customization capabilities make it possible to tune client frameworks to meet specific application footprints; this makes AJAX the better solution for smaller RIA deployments and for deployments where performance is critical.

For large-scale user productivity applications, developers should use Flex. Although Flash's client footprint is larger than AJAX frameworks, its market penetration makes it the preferred deployment platform for larger, comprehensive RIAs. Adobe is a safe choice for those who put a high value on reliable support and product continuity, concerns that are key when making strategic technology investments. The downside is that safety comes at the price of openness.

The benefits are clear: RIAs help users find and manipulate relevant content, complete complex transactions, and consume multimedia in the context of a larger app, providing improved customer experience, higher Web conversion rates, and thus improved revenues. While there's no one answer to the question of which to use, AJAX and Flex provide today's developers with options.

More Stories By Jeffrey Hammond

Jeffrey Hammond is a senior analyst at Forrester Research where he covers tools and techniques for application design and development. He is a leading expert on software modeling techniques, integrated development environments and the emergence of new rich Internet application development practices and tools. Jeffrey holds a BS in economics (finance) from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Comments (10) 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
Utkal 04/02/08 01:44:59 AM EDT

Hi. What about Curl ? you ve not named curl in your article. Is it so bad that it can not compete with RIA technologies like Ajax, Flex, AIR, Silverlight etc ?
I wish you could ve included Curl too. I'm new to web dev, and started learning Curl. Its easy to understand and learn.

Ted Farrell 02/22/08 02:56:49 PM EST

Hey Jeff. Interesting article. We have found that our users don't have to choose. Our JavaServer Faces framework generates both Ajax and Flash markup. Other companies (google, etc.) do similar things as well. I think the choice only comes into play if you decide to use Adobe's Flex components, which only generate flash. Many other component toolkits generate multiple formats, including Ajax, Flash, WML, XML, etc.

Ted Farrell - Oracle Corporation

Marco Casario 12/13/07 12:58:44 PM EST

Hi,
nice piece of article !
I had a speach at the Web 2.0 about this topic titled "Choosing the final RIA path" :
http://casario.blogs.com/mmworld/2007/11/using-the-ria-d.html

http://blog.comtaste.com/2007/11/choosing_the_appropriate_ria_t_1.html

and here you can see the slides for my talk :

http://www.slideshare.net/marcocasario/choosing-the-right-rich-internet-...

See you at AJAXWorld NY,
All the best,
marco

Gregory C 11/29/07 12:29:54 PM EST

Hi,

Thank you for this interesting topic,
Could you please expand this topic with the accessibility possibilities of both solutions ?
In my mind, it seems that Flex does not support accessibility and with some customization AJAX frameworks like GWT are able to handle this major subject (we're currently working on this topic using GWT). Regards.

Gringaus 11/02/07 04:23:01 PM EDT

Just stumbled upon this article... Pretty embarrassing for senior analyst at Forrester Research to come up with this b...t. Forrester, get rid of him, seriously.

Harry B. Garland 08/31/07 06:07:28 PM EDT

You forgot to mention that Flex is object oriented. JavaScript is pseudo-OOP at best. After all these years, are we still debating about whether or not OOP is important? That is crazy!

Canoo RIA Blog 08/20/07 08:42:21 AM EDT

As already mentioned in the Canoo RIA blog, reading this article is recommended. It lists several issues to consider that many others focusing on mere technical aspects leave out.

For a detailed discussion of this article, see:

http://canoo.com/blog/2007/08/15/how-to-select-ria-technologies-part-1-o...

Dirk 08/08/07 12:44:03 PM EDT

Digg this? Dump this you mean! I suggest to use both technologies before writing this kind of articles. Flex is simply the technology to use - if you would have used it you would know.

Andy 07/29/07 11:18:00 PM EDT

This article generated more questions in my mind than it helped with answers.

What about the Flex/Ajax bridge? What about companies that will continue to use both Flex and Ajax for a variety of different means?

What I really need is more useful information on how these technologies help address various types of business problems that are being translated into technical requirements.

What are people's main concerns? Mine are security and performance between the client and server. XML based services can be very verbose, are test show that Flex can have some advantages here, but what are other people finding out?

What are the cost differences?

Hopefully you can address these questions in a follow-on article.

Chester Chipperfield 07/14/07 11:49:32 AM EDT

I'm afraid you are wrong on a number of points here. This is not subjective, but mostly factual errors. Have a read of this http://blog.schematic.com.au/?p=46 , it goes some way to pointing them out.

@ThingsExpo Stories
DXWorldEXPO LLC, the producer of the world's most influential technology conferences and trade shows has announced the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO "Early Bird Registration" is now open. Register for Full Conference "Gold Pass" ▸ Here (Expo Hall ▸ Here)
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, compared the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, examin...
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that All in Mobile, a mobile app development company from Poland, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. All In Mobile is a mobile app development company from Poland. Since 2014, they maintain passion for developing mobile applications for enterprises and startups worldwide.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and ...
"We are a well-established player in the application life cycle management market and we also have a very strong version control product," stated Flint Brenton, CEO of CollabNet,, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arvind Radhakrishnen discussed how IoT offers new business models in banking and financial services organizations with the capability to revolutionize products, payments, channels, business processes and asset management built on strong architectural foundation. The following topics were covered: How IoT stands to impact various business parameters including customer experience, cost and risk management within BFS organizations.
Here are the Top 20 Twitter Influencers of the month as determined by the Kcore algorithm, in a range of current topics of interest from #IoT to #DeepLearning. To run a real-time search of a given term in our website and see the current top influencers, click on the topic name. Among the top 20 IoT influencers, ThingsEXPO ranked #14 and CloudEXPO ranked #17.
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
With the introduction of IoT and Smart Living in every aspect of our lives, one question has become relevant: What are the security implications? To answer this, first we have to look and explore the security models of the technologies that IoT is founded upon. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nevi Kaja, a Research Engineer at Ford Motor Company, discussed some of the security challenges of the IoT infrastructure and related how these aspects impact Smart Living. The material was delivered interac...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
The Founder of NostaLab and a member of the Google Health Advisory Board, John is a unique combination of strategic thinker, marketer and entrepreneur. His career was built on the "science of advertising" combining strategy, creativity and marketing for industry-leading results. Combined with his ability to communicate complicated scientific concepts in a way that consumers and scientists alike can appreciate, John is a sought-after speaker for conferences on the forefront of healthcare science,...
In his session at Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, presented a success story of an entrepreneur who has both suffered through and benefited from offshore development across multiple businesses: The smart choice, or how to select the right offshore development partner Warning signs, or how to minimize chances of making the wrong choice Collaboration, or how to establish the most effective work processes Budget control, or how to maximize project result...
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, discussed the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docker c...
Personalization has long been the holy grail of marketing. Simply stated, communicate the most relevant offer to the right person and you will increase sales. To achieve this, you must understand the individual. Consequently, digital marketers developed many ways to gather and leverage customer information to deliver targeted experiences. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lou Casal, Founder and Principal Consultant at Practicala, discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated our abilit...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.