Can Adobe’s FLEX 2.0 and AJAX be a powerful combination to RIA (Rich Internet Applications)

At BCB3 the Big Fight was on Flex and Java as tools for RIA (Rich Internet Application). This debate attracted a lot of geeks to contribute and it turned out to be an interesting debate.

Flex has been a great tool for building rich internet applications. But somehow it seems to lack proper addressing in the interactivity nature of the front end and back end. Flex 2 brings the portability and features of Flash to enterprise client developers. Flex 2 is actually the third iteration of the Flex product line.Flex applications can also fully integrate with Ajax/DHTML via tight Javascript integration provided by the Flex-Ajax bridge.  Flex 1.0 was released in 2004 almost under the radar.Flex 2 uses an XML-based language, MXML, as its declarative language. MXML is very component based, but these components can be expanded and enhanced via ActionScript.Flex when combined with MXML and actionscripting can prove to be more powerful to fetch data from the backend. Flex will use the MVC framework at times and is also called as Cairngorm. Comparing Flex to java there seems to be a clear distinction between the presentation layer and the Business layer. Flex is all about building up RIA’s based on the Presentation layer and the Ajax is more focussed on the business layer 

There have been concerns about the alternatives for Flex on the open source as Flex is an indegineous tool developed by the Adobe banner. Market comparisms have been happening around Windows presentation Framework and the Open Lazlo projects on parallel grounds to develop RIA’s. Open Laszlo formerly known as the Laszlo Presentation Server (LPS) is an open source software that has a very similar declarative model to Flex and also has a rich set of options for being hosted on the Web including the ability to support the Flash 6 player and above. The most compelling upcoming feature of Laszlo is the ability to generate Flash applications or Ajax applications from the same source code. Open source applications have always had limitations too like support for commercial usage and so on.

Talk about IT and if you are developing an application and if your competitor is not Microsoft then you are really missing the competition. So as always even in this front from Microsoft there has been some competition on tools to build RIA’s called Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). But comparing WPF and Flex 2 on common grounds is somewhat misleading as WPF will be used to create some amazing RIAs, it is primarily going to be used to build desktop applications that can be delivered over the internet.

Summarising my support on Flex let me tell you this , Flex is a very compelling technology. Eventhough the application is in its rudimentary stages in comparism there is a lot of development going into it to create robustness. Flex and Java integration will be a great tool for building RIA’s  This combination will be able to harness the power of rich user experience of Flex and the great interactivity of the Ajax framework. BCB3 had a common impression that Flex and Ajax don’t compete – but they do, and the sudden peak in demand of Ajax just replicates that people like building rich web applications. At some point, the best Ajax developers will hit a wall and have to find other ways to bring their visions to life. There have been developments on this direction as well from the Ruby on rails community called the Flex Ajax Bridge but that is a totally different topic altogether to dwell on later.

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