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RIA & Ajax: Article

Achieving Business and IT Agility with Enterprise Web 2.0

Web 2.0 technologies promise to turn the Internet into a true application platform

Web 2.0 technologies promise to turn the Internet into a true application platform, featuring robust client-side logic and rich interfaces that put users back in control of application flow. For the enterprise IT community, achieving the aims of Web 2.0 requires looking beyond the adoption of popular Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) development languages like AJAX, Flash, Java, and .NET.

Companies looking to implement an Enterprise Web 2.0 (EW2.0) strategy require a platform that provides standardization and simplification across different business applications and development technologies, while enabling the flexibility required for innovation within business units, otherwise called "common flexibility." The platform must provide Web 2.0 applications with a reliable and secure communication between client and server - whether online, offline or mobile - across any network. Finally, it needs to support Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) initiatives by enabling the consumption of loosely coupled services that provide access to business functionality and data in real time, while leveraging existing code, development standards, tools, skills and infrastructure.

Over the last 20 years, mainstream enterprise applications have swung back and forth between server- and client-centric architectures. Originally, mainframe architectures were server-based and sent the user interface (UI) to display terminals. In the 1990s, attracted by the power of graphical desktop environments like Microsoft Windows, the pendulum swung to the other end of the spectrum - client/server, which was entirely client-based except for server-side databases. In the late 1990s, the next pendulum swing was caused by the low-cost, global deployment model of the Web, leading to the development of browser-based HTML and J2EE applications, which were again, entirely server-based with the UI running on the client-side browsers.

Today, the architectural flexibility of Web 2.0 offers developers the best of both worlds. By delivering the high performance and robust functionality of desktop or client/server - combined with the universal reinstall deployment and centralized management of browser-based applications - EW2.0 applications deliver a quantum operational efficiency and end-user productivity, while decreasing IT costs. For the first time in 30 years of application development, EW2.0 enables application developers to partition client- and server-side layers, using appropriate technologies to meet different business objectives and specific end-user requirements.

Although EW2.0 architectures combine the best qualities of their historic predecessors, there are some lingering challenges surrounding integration, security, UI development and performance. To overcome these challenges, enterprise IT organizations should consider implementing a "reference architecture" that provides these services consistently to all EW2.0 developers, regardless of their development technology and target deployment platforms.

The EW2.0 application landscape currently includes a mix of Java, .NET, AJAX, and Flash on the client side; different ways of communicating between client and server; different server technologies ranging from HTTP servers to J2EE; different ways to integrate data sources; as well as many different business processes and services, development tools, and methodologies. Simply put, there is a lot of complexity and heterogeneity to manage.

An EW2.0 reference architecture provides "common flexibility." In other words, it gives EW2.0 application developers common services and architecture without limiting the capability to leverage different landscape components and approaches to meet specific business needs. It provides a higher level of abstraction to enable developers to focus on application requirements rather than being bogged down with platform or technology specifics. This way, developers can integrate various existing systems without rewriting them, creating a composite application that can be universally deployed.

By implementing an EW2.0 reference architecture that provides "common flexibility," companies become more agile and significantly decrease the cost and risk of application development and deployment. Companies will be able to reduce development, deployment, and maintenance costs; improve responsiveness to business drivers; and reduce technology investment risk. As such, developers can build applications - using AJAX, Flash, Java, or .NET - that best suit the needs of the enterprise.

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Coach Wei is founder and CEO of Yottaa, a web performance optimization company. He is also founder and Chairman of Nexaweb, an enterprise application modernization software company. Coding, running, magic, robot, big data, speed...are among his favorite list of things (not necessarily in that order. His coding capability is really at PowerPoint level right now). Caffeine, doing something entrepreneurial and getting out of sleeping are three reasons that he gets up in the morning and gets really excited.

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