IBM works on next-gen Web collaboration

The company unveiled its OpusUna Web-conferencing platform at AJAXWorld; also, Sun touted the upcoming JSF spec

IBM is working on a Web-conferencing platform dubbed OpusUna, which offers all participants the ability to collaborate using the same Web pages and features audio and video.

The AJAX-based technology was discussed by IBM officials during a briefing at the AJAXWorld RIA Conference & Expo in San Jose, Calif. on Tuesday. "Really, what we're looking at is how I extend the whole concept of AJAX to allow multiple-user interactions," said David Boloker, CTO in the IBM Emerging Internet Technology Software Group.

"It's all about a next-generation collaboration capability where you're really looking at how people interact with one another in a very different way," Boloker said.

OpusUna enables participants to collaborate and communicate from within the same browser space, incorporating widgets, audio, and video cameras to display themselves on the screen. IBM envisions, for example, collaboration on patient care via sharing of medical images. Financial traders also could collaborate from around the world.

The difference between OpusUna and other collaboration platforms is with OpusUna, all participants can contribute content as opposed to having one person serving as a presenter, IBM said. Cooperative meetings can be held.

The OpusUna software, which IBM has deployed on a Linux system, pulls together the various parts of a collaboration. It leverages HTML, JavaScript, and CSS; Flash and Silverlight content could be brought in via a wrapped widget. IBM is currently working with the Safari browser, but plans call for extending the software to Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox in the first quarter of 2009

IBM plans to show OpusUna to customers in early 2009 before deciding on how to proceed with the technology. The technology arose out of the company's QEDWiki mashup project, providing a next step that incorporates audio and video.

OpusUna is so named for a Latin expression for "work together" or "work as one," Boloker said.

Also at AJAXWorld on Tuesday, the next generation of JSF (JavaServer Faces), which is version 2.0, was noted. Due out at the end of this year, JSF 2.0 features accommodations for AJAX as well as other improvements, said Roger Kitain, staff engineer for Java EE Engineering at Sun. An early draft review of JSF 2.0 is under way.

JSF features server-side components for building Web applications. It offers client device independence. Developers can use various render kits with JSF to determine, for example, how the applications will render in a browser.

Featured in version 2.0 is AJAX standardization, Kitain said. There are a lot of JSF AJAX frameworks, and each tries to solve the same problem in different ways. "We'd like to standardize on some common features in the specification," said Kitain.  

A standard JavaScript API is being pondered for interaction with JSF over AJAX.

JSF and AJAX are being paired because JSF offers server-side robustness, while AJAX offers rich Web application capabilities, said Kitain. JSF proponents would like for components developed in different JSF-AJAX frameworks, such as Dynamic Faces and Ajax4jsf, to be more compatible, he said.

Developers could use multiple components within different frameworks within the same Web application, Kitain said.

Version 2.0 also seeks to make it easier to develop custom components by moving away from JavaServer Pages as JSF's view technology and moving toward Facelets, Kitain said. Facelets, he said, is more of a lightweight technology closer to HTML syntax.

Also planned for JSF 2.0 is use of Java annotations to ease the burden of XML configurations; improved performance for the JSF state-saving mechanism, which saves the state of the UI, is another improvement.

Once JSF 2.0 is released, its proponents hope the new specification is used both in applications and tools. There are already two major implementations: Sun's Mojarra and Apache MyFaces, Kitain said. 

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