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The change that Ajax may be heralding is a radical re-thinking of the presentation layer that coincides with the radical re-thinking of the application layer brought on by a service-oriented architecture. As new-breed componentized applications get built, the issue of how users interface in a dynamic fashion with dynamic content becomes a matter of no small importance.
"While Ajax isn't a necessary part of SOA, they're certainly an optimal pairing," said Kevin Hakman, director of product marketing for Tibco Software Inc.'s Ajax-based graphical interface tool. "They're able to leverage each other's strengths."
Last year Tibco bought General Interface in what seemed like an odd pairing, but with a third-generation Ajax tool ready to hit the market on Sept. 12, it now looks like the Palo Alto, Calif., company has caught itself the next big wave, along with other vendors making an Ajax push, such as Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft. With its new tool, Tibco hopes to provide the runtime partner to the devtime business of Web services and integration.
"You can actually develop in parallel," Hakman said. "If teams can get together in the early phases and agree on the user interfaces, then the handoffs can be memorialized in a WSDL[Web Service Description Language]."
"It can use anything you can get your hands on via HTTP or HTTPs," Hakman said.
Yet the report notes that Ajax is not without its flaws either.
"The hype about Ajax is unfortunately overblown: Technical limitations, missing standards and narrow applicability make it more like a different flavor of Java applets than a complete Web revolution," the report found.
Despite that caveat, Forrester acknowledges Ajax's potential to leapfrog competitive offerings with "stellar" applications, to eke more out of a user's current infrastructure and to pursue a user-centered design model.
The newest Tibco interface tool will look to leverage that ability to bring more application developers and the Web services they're creating into the rich client fold. The interface builder follows the model of SOA tools, which put security and policy a level of abstraction away from the service creation.
"We've created an abstraction layer that insulates developers from the complexities of browser protocols," Hakman said.
Certainly, Ajax has managed to grab itself a spotlight. Now the technology and toolsets must prove themselves as a viable last mile in the coming modularized world of service-oriented architecture.
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