Welcome!

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

Related Topics: Machine Learning

Machine Learning : Article

The Grand Convergence: Web + RIA + Widgets + Client/Server

Four main desktop client options are beginning to converge into a single form: the Fit Client

For the past ten years application developers have been stuck with only two desktop client choices. Traditionally, they can choose either a very thin Web-client technology implemented in HTML and CSS, or a very heavyweight thick client experience implemented using traditional client/server (C/S) technologies (e.g. Java Swing, MFC). It wasn’t until the introduction of RIA technologies (e.g. AJAX, Adobe Flex, Curl, and Silverlight) and widget engines (e.g. Yahoo! Widgets and Google Gadgets) that we were given more options.

Now these four desktop client options are beginning to converge into a single form, the Fit Client. (See Figure 1 below)



Fig 1: The Grand Convergence

Each of the options that preceded the Fit Client have their own benefits and are well suited for specific scenarios - the Fit Client represents the best of all these technologies.

#1: The Web for Reach

The Web client, which uses HTML and CSS, has been the most popular client desktop option in the history of computing.  Never has any desktop client solution been implemented by so many applications and used by so many people (billions of people).  The advantage of the Web client is “Reach.”

Reach, in this context, is a measure of how many people can access the client. The Web has won this race hands down and will probably be the reigning Reach champion for years to come, because Web clients use only HTML and CSS – two technologies that are well understood and implemented consistently across web browsers and operating systems. The Web has became the primary way in which people consume content and interact with applications on the desktop.
Web technologies also benefit from a centralized distribution model – every time you access a web application you get the latest version of that application. Web applications are always downloaded to your computer when needed and can be centrally managed at the web server.  Centralized management contributes greatly to Web Reach, because it allows updates and patches to be applied without having to deal with the idiosyncrasies of millions of different client machines.

#2: Client/Server for Richness

While the Web surpasses any other desktop client technology in terms of reach, it's the client/server platforms that own the desktop in terms of Richness.  Take a look at any application that requires extremely high fidelity for 2D and 3D graphics and you’ll find a thick client. For example, interactive on-line games – the ultimate litmus test for intensive client-side processing – such as World of Warcraft are implemented with client/server technologies. Although these games use the Internet, you have to have a thick client solution in order to meet the intensive processing needs.
Besides being able to handle intensive graphics, client/server technologies also rule in Richness because they can maintain massive amounts of data on the client. Unlike Web technologies, which are limited to about 4k (the size of a web cookie), client/server technologies are only limited by your hard drive capacity.  The ability to maintain massive amounts of data on the desktop give client/server technologies a real boost in terms of interactivity – most of the data is local requiring no network communications.
While Client/Server technologies excel in Richness they stumble pretty badly in terms of Reach.  Client/Server technologies require that you download fairly large applications before you can use them. For example, World of Warcraft requires six gigabytes of hard-drive space. While online interactive video games may represent an extreme, the fact is that most client/server applications are pretty large compared to other options.

#3: RIA Technologies - The Compromise

RIA technologies such as AJAX, Adobe Flex, Curl and others offer a compromise that attempts to balance the Reach of the Web with the Richness of client/server technology.  RIA applications, like web applications, are downloaded as needed and while not as portable as Web clients, they are supported on over 90% of desktops. 

So RIA technologies benefit from the same management and almost the same Reach as the Web, but they also introduce client-side processing. The ability to do more complex processing on the client isn’t nearly as powerful as client/server technologies, but it does allow for a much better interactive experience with GUI controls and local processing that cuts down on network requests.  RIA technologies are a compromise between Reach of the Web and Richness of client/server technologies. It’s this compromise that has made RIA technologies very popular.

#4: The Widget Engine - Precursor to the Fit Client

Widget Engines such as Yahoo! Widgets and Google Desktop are an interesting alternative to Web, client/server, and RIA technologies. The architecture of the Widget engine divides the client technology into two parts, the engine and the widgets. The widget engine is usually a pretty large download. For example, the Yahoo! Widget engine is about 40 megabytes and the Google Desktop widget engine is about 1 gigabyte.  However, once the widget engine is installed the widgets themselves are pretty lightweight – say .5 to 3 megabytes in size.
The widget engine is really a wonderful architecture that gives you the power of the desktop (via the widget engine) and the management of the Web (via widget downloads).  Widget engines can out-perform RIA solutions and they can store larger data sets.
The limitation of Widget engines is not in their architecture, it is that they have been designed for applications with fairly weak capabilities compared to client/server. Widgets tend to be single-purpose applications with limited access to the native operating system. That said, the widget architecture itself - the separation of the platform from the applications - is important. It makes it possible to create applications (widgets) that are portable across operating systems and are packaged for easy download and installation. They also provide – to varying degrees – a safe execution environment where widgets may be isolated from the rest of the operating system and managed by the widget engine.

The Grand Convergence: The Fit Client

The Fit Client, of which Adobe AIR is the best-known example, represents a convergence of the four earlier client models (i.e. Web, client/server, RIA, and Widgets). Fit Client technologies embody the best in all the previous desktop client platforms.  Like a Widget Engine the Fit Client separates much of the application’s infrastructure into a portable runtime environment and offers a clean packaging and installation model.  Fit Client applications can be lighter weight than client/server applications, yet more powerful and far richer than RIA clients.  In addition, Fit Client platforms offer more robust APIs and security models than do Widget Engines. Fit Client applications can be centrally managed, yet remain resident on the desktop. They can offer access to standard web content (e.g. HTML) without the need of a browser.
Fit Clients can leverage the processing power and disc space of the client machine, but they can also offer more restrictive and secure environments than client/server platforms.
As is the case with any technology, Fit Clients are not a panacea but they are advancement on previous technologies.  A great Fit Client platform such as Adobe AIR, Google Gears, or Curl offers enormous flexibility and power while also enabling centralized management and distribution. Fit Clients won’t be used for everything, but they will become the Internet platform of choice for many types of applications in the years to come.

This column appears exclusively at SYS-CON.com. Copyright © 2008 Richard Monson-Haefel.
(This copyright notice supersedes the one auto-generated at the foot of this page.)

More Stories By Richard Monson-Haefel

Richard Monson-Haefel, an award-winning author and technical analyst, owns Richard Monson-Haefel Consulting. Formerly he was VP of Developer Relations at Curl Inc. and before that a Senior Analyst at The Burton Group. He was the lead architect of OpenEJB, an open source EJB container used in Apache Geronimo, a member of the JCP Executive Committee, member of JCP EJB expert groups, and an industry analyst for Burton Group researching enterprise computing, open source, and Rich Internet Application (RIA) development.

Comments (1) 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
peterT 03/11/08 06:58:25 AM EDT

So Fit clients are taking over from fat clients? Do developers confirm this out there?

@ThingsExpo Stories
Michael Maximilien, better known as max or Dr. Max, is a computer scientist with IBM. At IBM Research Triangle Park, he was a principal engineer for the worldwide industry point-of-sale standard: JavaPOS. At IBM Research, some highlights include pioneering research on semantic Web services, mashups, and cloud computing, and platform-as-a-service. He joined the IBM Cloud Labs in 2014 and works closely with Pivotal Inc., to help make the Cloud Found the best PaaS.
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader Sergey Grebnov provided an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
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...
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...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
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.
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...
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessio...
To Really Work for Enterprises, MultiCloud Adoption Requires Far Better and Inclusive Cloud Monitoring and Cost Management … But How? Overwhelmingly, even as enterprises have adopted cloud computing and are expanding to multi-cloud computing, IT leaders remain concerned about how to monitor, manage and control costs across hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. It’s clear that traditional IT monitoring and management approaches, designed after all for on-premises data centers, are falling short in ...
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that the upcoming DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO New York event will feature 10 companies from Poland to participate at the "Poland Digital Transformation Pavilion" on November 12-13, 2018.
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
The best way to leverage your CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at CloudEXPO. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audienc...
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 ...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smart...
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.
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.