Welcome!

You will be redirected in 30 seconds or close now.

ColdFusion Authors: Yakov Fain, Jeremy Geelan, Maureen O'Gara, Nancy Y. Nee, Tad Anderson

Related Topics: ColdFusion

ColdFusion: Article

Flash MX Web Services vs Remoting

Which is right for your project?

Flash MX 2004 Pro Web service classes or Flash Remoting components for ActionScript 2.0: Which is right for you? This article offers some guidelines.

In just three years we've come a long way. It seems like an eternity since the days when I used to code CF pages with dynamic content served up to Flash, but let me stress how rudimentary it was. Flash back to December 14, 2001, when a little site called FlashCFM received Macromedia's Site of the Day designation. On several occasions I received e-mails asking me how on earth FlashCFM received this prestigious award. There was nothing spectacular about the site, no fancy graphics, Flash animation, or anything out of the ordinary. Yet the concept behind it was brilliant, or so I believed. As you can probably guess from its name, this site introduced the marriage of Flash and ColdFusion.

FlashCFM was a community site that educated developers about the power of Flash and ColdFusion integration. When I say that this process used to be rudimentary, let me give a quick example of ColdFusion code in a page called variables.cfm:

<cfoutput>&first_name=#query.first_name#&last_name=#query.last_name#

So the output would look like:

&first_name=Dennis&last_name=Baldwin

Flash would then retrieve this data and display it with a simple line of code:

loadVariables("variables.cfm", _root);

A very simple framework indeed (more like a CSV screenscrape or accessing a query string), but it proved to be the start of something wonderful. Flash forward to the present and we have such powerful technologies as Flash Remoting and Web service components. In this article I will go into detail about the pros and cons of each solution, as well as give you enough information to decide which is the best fit for your project. This will be demonstrated with a simple application that calls identical service methods, one using Flash Remoting and the other using the Web service classes. Enough history, let's get started!

Flash MX Pro Web Service Classes
If you've opened Flash MX 2004 Pro, then you're probably aware of the new Web service classes. Macromedia has done a great job in releasing components that allow Flash developers to easily consume Web services. Throughout the rest of this article I'll be making reference to the WebServiceClasses component and not the WebServiceConnector component. The WebServiceClasses component is the minimum set of classes necessary to handle SOAP transactions programmatically, while the WebServiceConnector is more of a visual aid for accessing Web services from Flash. I believe in using a programmatic approach because it gives developers more control over their applications, allows them to better understand how the API works, and helps reduce file size.

I'm currently working for a company named SensorLogic and we're in the process of rewriting our Web portal to utilize Flash and Web services. SensorLogic is a machine-to-machine (M2M) ASP, and it's imperative that the user experience be as quick and reliable as possible. With the ASP model in mind, we'd like to expose certain services to our customers and resellers so they can build their own applications around our back-end system. We wanted our system to be flexible enough to serve data to Flash, ColdFusion, .NET, or Java. Web services gave us this flexibility. Figure 1 illustrates a basic communications architecture for Flash with Web services.

Although very extensible and flexible, Web services in Flash do have their limitations and drawbacks. The first and foremost is the overhead that SOAP transactions introduce. XML-based protocols are very descriptive, which means they add to code bloat because of markup tags and headers. With this overhead, data usually takes longer to get to the Flash client and the XML has to be parsed, which slows the process down even more. This is definitely not recommended for large data sets or complex objects. On the other hand, if you're dealing with smaller data sets and simple objects, then Web services may be the perfect fit.

Another issue worth considering is security. Unless you plan on implementing SSL, all data sent over the wire is unencrypted. So if your application contains sensitive data, then enforcing secure transactions is a must. In Flash MX 2004 a new security measure was introduced, known as the crossdomain.xml policy file. This file basically says that a Flash client coming from domain A has authority to access services on domain B. This file resides in the Web root of domain B and is automatically read by the Flash client when any Web services are called.

To further explain this issue, let's say we want to write a Flash component that accesses a weather Web service and displays the temperature for a specified locale. This will be a problem if we're not authorized to access the remote server through the crossdomain file. In most cases it won't even exist on the remote server. In a controlled environment this isn't a problem, however. If we have control of the server that provides the weather Web service, we can add the crossdomain file to grant access to authorized clients. For more information on configuring crossdomain files, visit www.macromedia.com/devnet/mx/flash/articles/fplayer_security_03.html.

Flash Remoting
With all the hype around the new Web service classes, developers seem to think Macromedia has forgotten about Remoting. This couldn't be further from the truth. The Flash Remoting components for ActionScript 2.0 were recently released - and they're larger than life. Nothing has changed in the underlying architecture of Remoting; the new components are just friendlier to ActionScript 2.0 developers. While Macromedia put a good amount of resources into the new Web service classes, this doesn't eliminate the need for Remoting.

If you've read any of my past ColdFusion Developer's Journal articles, then you probably know how much I rant and rave about Remoting. Yes, I'm a bit biased toward Remoting, but that's because I love CF and how nicely it integrates with Flash. All data that is transmitted between the Flash client and the application is serialized using the Action Message Format (AMF). AMF is a streamlined binary protocol that was modeled after SOAP. Flash Remoting automatically takes care of data type conversion from the server to the client and back again. Figure 2 illustrates a basic communications architecture with Flash Remoting.

Notice how Web services can still be introduced into this architecture. The application server can serve as a proxy between Flash and the Web service. An application server such as ColdFusion would invoke the remote method and return the data to the Flash client using Remoting. Taking this approach circumvents the crossdomain.xml security restriction.

As mentioned earlier, if you're dealing with large data sets and complex objects, then Flash Remoting is definitely worth a look. In most cases your performance will be better. If you're doing simple transactions such as retrieving stock quotes and weather data, then performance will be about the same or the difference will be too negligible to even notice.

One of the major drawbacks of Flash Remoting is the cost. The license runs $999 for a single-CPU license at the time of this writing. This is not an issue for CFMX developers (or Java/JSP developers using JRun 4) because Flash Remoting comes built in! If you are building enterprise applications with Flash but you're not on a CFMX server, then purchasing a Remoting license is a no-brainer. I can say from experience that it's worth every single penny for the performance you'll be gaining. Okay, enough talk; let's take a quick look at the application.

The File-Browsing Application
Although I've spent a good amount of your time talking about each technology, I'd like to walk you through a basic file-browsing application. If you'd like to download the source code for this application, please feel free to do so at www.sys-con.com/coldfusion/sourcec.cfm. View the README file to see how to configure the application. The application consists of a Tree component that allows you to select a folder and display its contents in a DataGrid component. Each time a tree node is clicked, a service call is made to the server for data. The ComboBox controls whether the service call is made using Web services or Flash Remoting. Figure 3 shows a screenshot of the application at work.

Web service and Flash Remoting objects are created with ActionScript in a similar manner. After the objects are created, a service method called getFiles is invoked. This method resides in a CFC called fileBrowser.cfc, which can be invoked through a Web service call and also through Flash Remoting. I want to take a quick second to say how truly amazing CF is. In less than 15 lines of code I can expose both a Web service and Flash Remoting method that can be consumed by a Flash client. If you've had experience exposing remote methods with any other technology, then you can truly appreciate how simple CF makes this.

After playing around with the application there are a couple of things that you'll most likely notice. Overall, the performance of Flash Remoting will be better than that of Web services. When retrieving a small number of data sets the difference will be negligible and not even worth noting. That's why the "Get All Records" button was added, because I think this truly demonstrates what I discussed earlier. Since we're dealing with what could be considered fairly complex objects (recordsets) and large amounts of data, you'll see that Flash Remoting truly outperforms Web services. While testing on my local machine it generally took the Web service classes 4-5 seconds to retrieve and display 783 records, while it took Flash Remoting less than a second. Play around with it and your results may vary!

Conclusion
In this article I touched the surface of Web services and Flash Remoting with a few pros and cons of each. There's definitely enough information on these two topics that an entire book could be devoted to them. I encourage you to download the sample application and test it, tweak it, and break it. I hope it will ultimately help give you enough information to decide which technology fits your needs, maybe one or the other, maybe both.

One area that I did not have a chance to touch upon is debugging. If you're interested in learning more, I recommend you take a look at the Log class for Web services and the NetConnection Debugger for Flash Remoting. If you'd like to learn more about the NetConnection Debugger, please check out my earlier article in CFDJ, Volume 4, issue 10. All in all, the future is bright for Flash and ColdFusion developers. Stay tuned!

More Stories By Dennis Baldwin

Dennis Baldwin is a software developer for SensorLogic Inc, an M2M application service provider. He also runs and maintains an online community for Flash and ColdFusion developers at www.devmx.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Yuasa System will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Yuasa System is introducing a multi-purpose endurance testing system for flexible displays, OLED devices, flexible substrates, flat cables, and films in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and healthcare.
Organizations do not need a Big Data strategy; they need a business strategy that incorporates Big Data. Most organizations lack a road map for using Big Data to optimize key business processes, deliver a differentiated customer experience, or uncover new business opportunities. They do not understand what’s possible with respect to integrating Big Data into the business model.
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities – ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous impor...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Taica manufacturers Alpha-GEL brand silicone components and materials, which maintain outstanding performance over a wide temperature range -40C to +200C. For more information, visit http://www.taica.co.jp/english/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, will discuss how they b...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale, a leading provider of systems and services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale has been involved in shaping the computing landscape. They've designed, developed and deployed some of the most important and successful systems and services in the history of the computing industry - internet, Ethernet, operating s...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale is the leading provider of Software-Defined Servers that bring flexibility to modern data centers by right-sizing servers on the fly to fit any data set or workload. TidalScale’s award-winning inverse hypervisor technology combines multiple commodity servers (including their ass...
As hybrid cloud becomes the de-facto standard mode of operation for most enterprises, new challenges arise on how to efficiently and economically share data across environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Dr. Allon Cohen, VP of Product at Elastifile, will explore new techniques and best practices that help enterprise IT benefit from the advantages of hybrid cloud environments by enabling data availability for both legacy enterprise and cloud-native mission critical applications. By rev...
Infoblox delivers Actionable Network Intelligence to enterprise, government, and service provider customers around the world. They are the industry leader in DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, the category known as DDI. We empower thousands of organizations to control and secure their networks from the core-enabling them to increase efficiency and visibility, improve customer service, and meet compliance requirements.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
Amazon is pursuing new markets and disrupting industries at an incredible pace. Almost every industry seems to be in its crosshairs. Companies and industries that once thought they were safe are now worried about being “Amazoned.”. The new watch word should be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” In his session 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Kocher, a co-founder of Grey Heron, will address questions such as: What new areas is Amazon disrupting? How are they doing this? Where are they likely to go? What are th...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, will lead you through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He'll look at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering ...
Digital transformation is changing the face of business. The IDC predicts that enterprises will commit to a massive new scale of digital transformation, to stake out leadership positions in the "digital transformation economy." Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, Oct 31-Nov 2, will find fresh new content in a new track called Enterprise Cloud & Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp emp...