Rich client redux
Action Engine bolsters the wireless experience by bringing Web services to mobile devices
CONVINCING THE PUBLIC of the value proposition of wireless applications has been an uphill battle for telecom carriers. Enterprises also have found difficulty in rolling out meaningful wireless apps in all but the simplest deployments due to the impediments of wireless and dumb devices.
Although bandwidth improvements may not be making a dramatic staging anytime soon, wireless devices are getting smarter. And it is on this front that Action Engine aims to seize the advantage.
Action Engine Mobile Web Services Platform 2.5 is a standards-based infrastructure for wireless Web services deployment that is following in the path of rich Internet applications. (See " Building a better browser ".)
The platform comprises a comprehensive server-side framework for aggregating and managing Web services-derived content and applications. In addition, a number of utilities and applications perform functions such as mobile device backup, usage accounting, and remote application management to enable better administration of devices in the field.
On the user-side, Action Engine smartens up the wireless experience by installing a fat client application onto the wireless device, rather than relying on simple browser-based interaction. By pushing the processing load onto the device and using a localized database, more data is kept in hand, reducing the typical flurry of server calls seen in browser-based Pocket IE transactions.
Although the product currently supports only Pocket PC 2002 and Smartphone 2002 -- a potentially limiting detractor for some -- support for Symbian and Palm is in the works.
And while we were slightly disappointed by the lacking development tools, we found Action Engine to be a solid infrastructure aimed at enriching the wireless experience.
Action Engine is a Java-and Microsoft-based solution, requiring Windows AS, SQL 2000, and Sun HotSpot Server to run its back-end engine, Web services, and communications routing between mobile devices and core system.
A variety of subsystems comprise the platform, including the dispatcher responsible for routing messages via MSMQ (Microsoft Message Queuing), sundry databases (accounting, content cache, application stats, etc.), a caching engine, and a synchronization engine that keeps it all in step.
Action Engine's XML parser and Web services layer facilitate content aggregation, enabling it to cull content from any Web services-compliant data source or in-house system. Web services can be built and deployed relatively easily for a carrier or enterprise to integrate new vendors and content providers into its stable of content and application offerings.
The smart mobile device also gets an update with the installation of a client application of modest footprint. A local XML parser, database, and processing engine are installed to facilitate application execution, XSLT (XSL Transformations) rendering, and communication and synchronization with the Action Engine platform.Communication between the wireless devices and the Action Engine server are compressed and encrypted (using GZIP and HTTPS/SSL respectively) to increase throughput and enforce security. Key strength can be customized to suit the requirements of carrier and application.