Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Karyn Jeffery, Tim Hinds, Jeev Trika

Related Topics: IoT User Interface, Java IoT

IoT User Interface: Article

AJAX & Java: Feature Interview with "AJAX in Action" Coauthor Dave Crane

"AJAX and Java look to have a long and happy future together," Crane Tells Harshad Oak

Republished with kind permission from IndicThreads.com:
"
Ajax technologies aren't particularly new or sexy"

Harshad Oak: Congratulations on the publication of your book “AJAX In Action”. Could you tell us a little more about yourself and your involvement in Ajax?

Dave Crane (pictured): Hi! Thanks, it's a real buzz to see the book out there, and getting such a good reception. I've been working with the web for roughly ten years now, and watched JavaScript growing up. My main line of work has always been something else – Perl, Java, etc. - but JavaScript kept creeping into everything that I did.

Five years ago, I found myself on a project developing set-top box systems using JavaScript, which gave me my first experience of maintaining a very large JS codebase. Since then, I tended to apply what-we-now-know-as-Ajax style approaches to my web app coding, using a variety of the old hidden iframe tricks and so on.

My second big experience with JavaScript was at SmartStream Technologies, working with a very smart team of J2EE developers on financial applications that were deployed to call centre-like setups in some of the tier-1 banks. Using the web browser to deliver the main application that a user would be pounding away on for eight hours a day was a pretty big challenge, and I have to say that we met it pretty well. Of course, there was a lot of AJAX going on in there.

Other than that, I'm just another computer fanatic who likes tinkering around with these pesky machines. I started writing code on a BBC Micro when I was fourteen, and currently use Linux, Windows and Mac OS X. I've contributed bits and pieces to various open source projects over the years, and like to code in Java, Python, Ruby and, of course, JavaScript!

Join Dave Crane at the "Real-World AJAX" One-Day Seminar, March 13, 2006
Click Here to Register Today and Save $300!
On-Site Registration Limited To 200 Delegates!

HO: As Ajax is such a new thing and only a handful are sure of what Ajax is all about, could you give us your thoughts on “What is AJAX”?

DC: Well, it isn't a technology. At the risk of sounding a bit fluffy, I'd say it's a way of doing new things with old technologies. From the programmer's perspective, everything that we needed to do AJAX has been available for several years, but it's taken most of us this long to get it. A few brave souls like Brent Ashley, Eric Costello, and the people that I'm now working with at Historic Futures, have been pioneering this approach for some time, but it was never mainstream until recently.

To the coder, AJAX is just a new way of using all the DHTML technologies, such as JavaScript, CSS and the DOM. Because you can get by longer without full-page refreshes, those technologies suddenly become more useful. To the architect and the business-person, it's more of a challenge, because it ousts some of the user flow control from the presentation tier, and requires a rethink of how the server-side works too.

To me, that's the most interesting thing about AJAX. As techies, we tend to get hung up on the Next Big Thing technology-wise (OK, i should speak for myself, I get hung up on these things), and yet with AJAX, the technologies themselves aren't particularly new or sexy. Rather, it's the realization that new things can be done with the old technologies. Simply adding asynchronous requests into the mix increases the reach of these technologies to the 'sovereign' applications that users use as their main workhorse for several hours a day. We're seeing people like 37signals suddenly make sense of the ASP model that's been talked about for several years and never quite taken off until now. And once you get into the whole Web 2.0 thing of 'mash-ups' and published APIs, then the entire business model is changing further still.

HO: In a very short time, Ajax has perhaps become the most popular acronym in software development. What do you think are the reasons? Did you see this coming?

DC: No, I didn't see it coming, much as I'd like to nod my head sagely :-). I think the popularity of Ajax lies in the low barrier to entry. Writing an AJAX app needs nothing more than a text editor and a web browser, although a serious AJAX professional will probably want a whole array of debuggers, IDEs and DOM Inspectors up their sleeves too – I certainly do.

Web sites can adopt it incrementally, again, making the barrier to entry pretty low.

If you compare AJAX to, say, Java Web Start, then Web Start wins on sheer power and what you can do with it. But AJAX is good enough for most situations, and it's ready to run on most people's computers without installing any client software. Maybe the fact that it uses a scripting language has something to do with it too (I'm a big fan of scripting as much as possible, I got a great productivity boost personally out of Jython, for example, when I first picked it up a few years ago.)

HO: Some experts feel that AJAX is stretching HTML and JavaScript too far and that these languages were never meant for developing rich Internet applications and so it's just not a good match.

DC: There's a line that the mark of a really good invention is that it will end up getting used for purposes that the inventor never could have dreamed of. I forget who it's attributed to now. I'm all in favor of pushing the envelope of what a web app can do, and I think AJAX is going in the right direction, on the whole.

Sure, it's possible to make the user experience worse by inappropriate use of AJAX, singing, dancing boxes popping up everywhere. But I'm pleased to see sites like Backpack and Flickr that work not just because they're using cool new technologies (or is it cool old technologies?), but because they're marrying that with improved useability, and offering something that people really do find easy to use.

HO: Flash has been delivering powerful and interactive Internet applications for many years. So when is using the tried and tested Flash a better choice than trying to create magic with HTML and JavaScript?

DC: For a very graphical application, Flash can do things that the current round of browsers just plain can't. With AJAX, one is very much tied to the rectangular nature of the DOM elements – look at the hoops that Google Maps jump through to render round-edged speech bubbles with semi-transparent drop shadows, for example. I presume that drawing that sort of thing in Flash would be much easier. I'm not that familiar with Flash from a developer standpoint, so please take my reply with a pinch of salt :-).

Again, in most cases, AJAX is there, it works, and it's good enough. Nobody designing an interactive web-based application platform from scratch would come up with AJAX, it's evolved organically out of the web browser. Like Microsoft Windows, AJAX has nothing so much in its favor as the fact that it is ubiquitous.

HO: Technologies generally don't sustain if there aren't good tools and frameworks around them. So what's the status with AJAX? Does one develop AJAX applications using any text editor or are there any specialized tools we must look at?

DC: There is no single AJAX IDE at the moment. Heavyweight development jobs can benefit from some sort of IDE, and I've seen people using everything from Eclipse to Dreamweaver to code their AJAX apps. The full toolkit is broader than that, however. There are code debuggers, such as Venkman for Mozilla, the free Microsoft Script Debugger and the Script Editor that ships with Office and/or Visual Studio for IE. There are HTTP debuggers – I'm currently using Fiddler and the Apache TCPMon. There are DOM Inspectors, XSLT tools, and so on. Firefox and Mozilla provide an excellent starting set of dev tools, with the big downside that they can't help you with IE-specific bugs.

As far as frameworks go, there are two types – client-tier frameworks written in JavaScript, and server-tier frameworks written in Java, Ruby, .NET, PHP and whatever else. The situation here has been pretty volatile in the last eight months or so, but I'd put my money on prototype.js (and it's child Scriptaculous), and maybe Dojo and MochiKit on the client tier. Ruby on Rails is clearly enjoying much synergy with AJAX, and it feels like the Java and .NET worlds are playing catch-up here, but several projects are starting to catch up, both existing frameworks such as Tapestry, MyFaces and Wicket, and new frameworks such as DWR. 2006 is going to be an interesting year.

HO: Interest in AJAX has been especially high in the Java world. How does AJAX fit into Java's scheme of things?

DC: Nobody likes a web framework or twenty more than the Java community - of which I'd count myself a member, I hasten to add! On the one hand, AJAX steals some of the thunder from the server-side frameworks. It's possible to write fairly autonomous clients in JavaScript that just hit the server when they need data, in which case, much of the presentation tier disappears. On the other hand, it's possible to modify the presentation tier to generate smart-client AJAX code instead of static HTML, in which case the presentation tier framework very definitely still has a job to do. I tend to lean towards the smart-client-and-data architecture, but I'd hesitate to say that that's universally the right way to go.

Java is keeping up on both these fronts. On the one hand, there are the aforementioned Tapestry, Wicket and JSF efforts underway to "AJAXify" the heavyweight presentation tiers, and arguably maintain the lock-in to one's server technology of choice. On the other hand, Java has been pretty active with web services and the whole SOA space, which plays very nicely with the independent JavaScript client approach. So AJAX and Java look to have a long and happy future together, although AJAX is definitely shifting the balance of power to some extent.

HO: Is AJAX more of a concern for the web designer or for the server side developer? How do you think would the division of work in AJAX project teams work out?

DC: Every project is different, but speaking from my experience in a large AJAX Jave EE project, everyone is affected to some extent. The designer needs to understand how the interface is generated automatically, and its easy to do this badly, and have the designer and JavaScript coder treading all over each other. There are strategies for separating the client-tier logic from the content, which we cover in the book. As far as the server-side teams are concerned, the balance of power between client and server is shifting again, as I mentioned in my previous remarks.

HO: Can Ajax applications that have powerful JavaScript running on the client still achieve a clean separation of presentation and logic or does a lot of logic move to the JavaScript on the client side?

DC: Yes, it can, but it has to do it differently. In a classic web app, everything important happens on the server, it's like a mainframe talking to a dumb terminal. To get the benefits from AJAX, it's necessary to move some of the logic to the client, but in order to be secure, it has to be a partial duplication of the logic that the server tiers do. I wouldn't trust a site that validated my credit card only using JavaScript, for example. It'd be way too easy to craft HTTP requests in a malicious client program and dupe the server into thinking it was talking to the bona fide AJAX app.

AJAX client apps will often contain a lot of JavaScript. I think that, going forward, it'll be necessary to pay a lot of attention to the design of that code, to provide clean layers within the JavaScript. That's something that we talk about quite a lot in the book.

HO: Where do you see Ajax going from here?

DC: All over the place :-) The big server frameworks are picking it up. The new types of smart internet clients are doing clever things with it. It seems to be breathing new life into the ASP business model. I'm intrigued by the various gadget/widget frameworks – Konfabulator, Mac OSX Dashboard, and Vista Gadgets – that seem to be combining elements of AJAX and desktop apps, blurring the boundaries a little bit further. I only wish that I had more time to explore all these avenues, I'll look forward to seeing what happens in the next year or two in this space.

More Stories By Harshad Oak

Harshad Oak is is the creator of the J2EE portal IndicThreads.com , the author of the books Pro Jakarta Commons , Oracle JDeveloper 10g: Empowering J2EE Development  and the coauthor of J2EE 1.4 Bible. He is also the founder of Rightrix Solutions and can be reached at [email protected]

Comments (0)

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects). Bruce Swann has more than 15 years of experience working with digital marketing disciplines like web analytics, social med...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EastBanc Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EastBanc Technologies has been working at the frontier of technology since 1999. Today, the firm provides full-lifecycle software development delivering flexible technology solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing systems – whether on premise or cloud. EastBanc Technologies partners with p...
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC Software has been named "Siver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. BMC is a global leader in innovative software solutions that help businesses transform into digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive advantage. BMC Digital Enterprise Management is a set of innovative IT solutions designed to make digital business fast, seamless, and optimized from mainframe to mo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Tintri Inc., a leading producer of VM-aware storage (VAS) for virtualization and cloud environments, will exhibit at the 18th International CloudExpo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device. For more information, please visit https://www.mangoapps.com/.
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
Customer experience has become a competitive differentiator for companies, and it’s imperative that brands seamlessly connect the customer journey across all platforms. With the continued explosion of IoT, join us for a look at how to build a winning digital foundation in the connected era – today and in the future. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Nguyen, Group Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how to successfully leverage mobile, rapidly deploy content, capture real-time d...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
SoftLayer operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With a global footprint of data centers and network points of presence, SoftLayer provides infrastructure as a service to leading-edge customers ranging from Web startups to global enterprises. SoftLayer's modular architecture, full-featured API, and sophisticated automation provide unparalleled performance and control. Its flexible unified platform seamlessly spans physical and virtual devices linked via a world...
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? How do you coordinate the diverse moving parts that must come together when developing your IoT product? What are the key challenges addressed by Data as a Service? How does cloud computing underlie and connect the notions of Digital and DevOps What is the impact of the API economy? What is the business imperative for Cognitive Computing? Get all these questions and hundreds more like them answered at the 18th Cloud Expo...
SYS-CON Events announced today Object Management Group® has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
What a difference a year makes. Organizations aren’t just talking about IoT possibilities, it is now baked into their core business strategy. With IoT, billions of devices generating data from different companies on different networks around the globe need to interact. From efficiency to better customer insights to completely new business models, IoT will turn traditional business models upside down. In the new customer-centric age, the key to success is delivering critical services and apps wit...
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. 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 ...
As cloud and storage projections continue to rise, the number of organizations moving to the cloud is escalating and it is clear cloud storage is here to stay. However, is it secure? Data is the lifeblood for government entities, countries, cloud service providers and enterprises alike and losing or exposing that data can have disastrous results. There are new concepts for data storage on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive data around the world. ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 200 develope...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, will discuss the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to fo...