After The Buzz, Ajax Goes To Work

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Ajax is an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. And the big developers have all caught the Ajax religion.

Sun (Quote, Chart)recently picked an Ajax architect to lead the company’s efforts while IBM (Quote, Chart)has partnered with the Open Source Dojo Foundation to help drive Ajax development.

Put JavaScript (define), Dynamic HTML (define)and XML (define)together and you have the cure for one of the Web’s biggest nuisances — screen refreshes.

Anyone who has shopped online knows that headache. The infinite number of redraws and refreshes can be a major drag on getting your business done. It feels nothing like a desktop application, but Ajax will provide just that.

“Ajax will give that distinctive feeling of using a desktop application within a browser,” said David Boloker, CTO in the Emerging Internet Technology Software Group at IBM.

“Companies are looking at how to use Ajax to their technical advantage so that it will allow them to get the jump on their competition,” he said.

That must have been the case for many of the people wandering the halls of the Santa Clara Convention Center, where the AjaxWorld Conference was being held.

The number of vendors with booths wouldn’t fill one row of the exhibit hall at the recent Intel Developer Forum, and it was a mishmash of established players (Google (Quote, Chart), IBM) and smaller players (NexaWeb, Zapatec).

IBM announced it would make contributions to the open source community to help with the adoption of Ajax, including enhancements to the Ajax Technology Framework (ATF) used by Eclipse.

IBM also plans to make Ajax code generation a part of the next release of Rational Application Developer.

Right now, Boloker said, Ajax is at the base of the curve for business adoption. Google Maps may be a cool use of the technology, but firms want to know how to use it to run their businesses.

One of the issues is security; Ajax is inherently insecure, because it’s a scripting language that runs on the client. Another issue is that JavaScript is a real nuisance to write, because it’s different from one browser to the next.

Helmi Technologies of Finland is preparing an open source Rich Internet Applications (RIA) Platform, due for release at the end of the year, which covers both issues. It generates the JavaScript from Java applications, so no scripting has to be written.

For security, the Ajax application is actually executed on a proxy server on the back end and then replicated down to the client, so the client is just displaying information. Nothing is executed on it.

“From the developer’s perspective, we realize there’s few people who understand Ajax but a huge number who understand Java,” said Keith Deutsch, vice president of technology for Helmi Technologies.

“Because of that, we wanted a framework to make it easy to develop without having to know frameworks and JavaScript.”

Helmi’s forthcoming server, which will run on top of existing Java applications servers like Tomcat and JBoss, will make it simple to take existing Java applications and Ajax-ize them, for lack of a better term.

Nexaweb is working on something similar with its Universal Client Framework (UCF), also announced at the show.

UCF allows for wrapping existing applications in an Ajax framework and deploying them on the Web, a common theme among other vendors here, as well.

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