Top AJAX tools deliver rich GUI goodness
Backbase, Bindows, JackBe, and Tibco General Interface bring fat features to enterprise Web clientsFollow @peterwayner
The biggest difference will probably rest in the server. If you’re adding AJAX gadgets to an existing or forthcoming Struts, JSF, or .Net project, then Backbase would be a good choice. But if you’re knitting together a number of disparate databases and Web services living in a corporate datacenter, then JackBe’s Presto could be a better fit. You could accomplish both projects with any of the four products, but these choices could make your life easier.
I will be interested in watching how a classic, IT company such as Tibco will handle a completely open source tool. The decision to embrace an open source model may seem to be a political and economic choice, but these decisions also have practical side-effects that can be quite dramatic. The openness will encourage developers inside and out to add more hooks and figure out more ways to open up their products to other code. The style of development changes throughout the source tree. A number of corporate developers tell me that they privately look with admiration at the fertile ecology of some well-run open source projects. The open source developers, for their part, marvel at the power and efficiency of focusing well-paid, full-time programmers on a problem. Perhaps Tibco’s blended approach will prove to be ideal.
The rise of tools such as these has larger implications. For years, everyone has predicted the death or commodification of the operating system layer. These tools drive another nail in the cranky, virus-ridden coffin of the OS. I’ve found it much easier to work with DOM-based user interface design tools than the classic object-oriented frameworks, and I expect that the tools examined in this article will
Click for larger view.
There are indications that the AJAX world is working on eliminating the last advantages of the OS. The open source group Dojo distributes a package that leverages the ability to store data locally on a PC. The system is fragile and relies on users’ installing a Flash plug-in, but it suggests that the AJAX world will soon conquer the ability to run offline. If this is combined with some good encryption, the AJAX application will be able to offer the user local control of files with offline access and seamless, private backup when a machine is able to reach the Internet. All of the developers of the frameworks in this article are well-aware of this grail, and you can bet that they’ll put a real polish on this capability soon.
This article has been revised to correct the browser support information and pricing for Bindows.