Welcome!

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

Related Topics: AJAX & REA, Java, .NET, Adobe Flex, Silverlight, AJAXWorld RIA Conference & Expo

AJAX & REA: Article

Rich Internet Applications: Has Microsoft Finally Seen the (Silver) Light?

Even web developers that are comfortable with AJAX or Flex will soon need to immerse themselves in Silverlight

In response to the proliferation of other frameworks used to create rich Internet applications such as Flex from Adobe (formerly from Macromedia) and AJAX-based frameworks, Microsoft Silverlight was recently introduced.

All three of these applications, as well as the others on the market, enable a web developer to create an interface on a web page that is much more robust than traditional HTML-based pages once were. Extending the limits of HTTP/HTML, these technologies use proprietary rendering engines running within the browser, and XML as the major language with which to communicate with servers.

Microsoft’s entry into the arena of rich Internet applications represents the company’s desire to create its own version of the technology that extends the reach of their .NET framework.

What Are Rich Internet Applications?
Rich Internet applications provide an end user with an interface that is more responsive than traditional applications. Many of the frameworks used to create these applications, including both Microsoft Silverlight and Flex, bring more of the processing to the client rather than leaving it on a centralized server. The user’s browser does not exchange large, monolithic blocks of information, but rather sends small pieces of data at a time, usually asynchronously. And this means that only relevant pieces of the interface need to updated, allowing users to do more, and do it more quickly, than traditional web applications allow. For this reason, more and more web applications use rich Internet technology of some type to give the end user an optimal experience.

There are of course many other frameworks for rich Internet applications in use today, but Flex, AJAX, and Microsoft Silverlight are three that are more commonly known, and each merits a more in-depth look.

Flex
Currently, Flex has the largest market share of any other framework for rich Internet applications, with a penetration of around 90 percent, something that Microsoft Silverlight is challenging. Flex is built on Flash technology, which was originally designed to manage multimedia functionality. The Flash plug in, which is supported by most major browsers, and is freely available for download, runs its programs in what is known as a “sandbox” - a separate entity from the browser itself, and a secure environment that protects the user. When used properly, Flex enables a website to behave like a thick client application (one that exists solely on a user’s computer rather than on the Internet).

As with any client-side technology, there are drawbacks. Not all browsers start out with the Flash plug in installed, and Flash is also updated from time to time. In either case, the end user is required to download a new version if he or she reaches a page that requires it. Other frameworks for rich Internet applications have the same issue, which is seen by some as a drawback since not all users will (or are permitted to) download the plug in, and in many cases will navigate away from the page entirely.

Microsoft Silverlight
Microsoft Silverlight was created to compete with Flex and with other frameworks for rich Internet applications that are already in use. It is based on .NET technology and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), which is a part of .NET 3.0. While .NET is a Windows-centric technology, Microsoft Silverlight offers a lightweight version of .NET that is cross platform (running on the Mac OS as well as Windows) and that runs in a browser sandbox.

AJAX
AJAX stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. It is a programming interface that is slowly gaining acceptance by some of the larger web presences, including Google (which leverages AJAX heavily in its Mail and Maps applications). As with the other frameworks for rich Internet applications and technologies in existence, AJAX gives a developer the ability to create a web page that behaves like a thick client application. However, it requires an understanding of the JavaScript language. In addition, not all browsers handle Javascript in the same way, and many users disable JavaScript in their browsers, both drawbacks of AJAX when compared to other frameworks.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Microsoft Silverlight
The main drawback of Microsoft Silverlight at the current time is that it is not as widely used as Flex, and therefore could cause users to leave a web page using it rather than download the necessary plug in. Using Microsoft Silverlight would require a developer to leave behind the application with the greatest number of users and embrace a newer, untested application (with, admittedly, a well-respected and trusted company - Microsoft - behind it).

However, Microsoft Silverlight is very appealing for developers who already know .NET. While a developer would have to learn Flash and Flex from square one, he may already have an in-depth understanding of .NET and could therefore jump right into using Silverlight. Since .NET is already very pervasive in the web development world, Silverlight could easily grab market share in the future.

Conclusion
Even web developers that are comfortable with AJAX or Flex (or other frameworks used for creating rich Internet applications) will soon need to immerse themselves in Microsoft Silverlight, while new developers will want to learn about Microsoft Silverlight from the start. Because of its foundation with .NET, Microsoft Silverlight has a smaller learning curve than many other frameworks used to create rich Internet applications.

While it may take the average user some time to warm up to the technology used with Silverlight, Microsoft is a formidable company and is likely to make inroads with its product in the near future and to establish it as an important application to know over the long term. Anyone wanting to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to rich Internet applications will do well to learn about Silverlight now rather than later.

More Stories By Charlie Fink

Charlie Fink is Vice President of Product Development and Delivery for WestLake Training + Development(http://westlaketraining.com). He has been designing and developing leading software solutions for over 15 years and has successfully managed a large number of software projects, including enterprise development, complex data migrations, and decision support systems (DSS). As a project manager, Fink has also developed and lead client training focused on use and support of custom software systems.

Comments (1) View Comments

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.


Most Recent Comments
mSantos 04/08/08 03:42:21 PM EDT

Chris Pirillo has the same exact article on his website, posted a full two weeks before this article(http://www.lockergnome.com/web/2008/01/14/rich-internet-applications-has...). What gives, man?

@ThingsExpo Stories
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, will discuss the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. The presentation will also discuss how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics to discuss are barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold.
Whether you're a startup or a 100 year old enterprise, the Internet of Things offers a variety of new capabilities for your business. IoT style solutions can help you get closer your customers, launch new product lines and take over an industry. Some companies are dipping their toes in, but many have already taken the plunge, all while dramatic new capabilities continue to emerge. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Reid Carlberg, Senior Director, Developer Evangelism at salesforce.com, to discuss real-world use cases, patterns and opportunities you can harness today.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have spoken with, or attended presentations from, utilities in the United States, South America, Asia and Europe. This session will provide a look at the CREPE drivers for SmartGrids and the solution spaces used by SmartGrids today and planned for the near future. All organizations can learn from SmartGrid’s use of Predictive Maintenance, Demand Prediction, Cloud, Big Data and Customer-facing Dashboards...
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices – computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be!
Noted IoT expert and researcher Joseph di Paolantonio (pictured below) has joined the @ThingsExpo faculty. Joseph, who describes himself as an “Independent Thinker” from DataArchon, will speak on the topic of “Smart Grids & Managing Big Utilities.” Over his career, Joseph di Paolantonio has worked in the energy, renewables, aerospace, telecommunications, and information technology industries. His expertise is in data analysis, system engineering, Bayesian statistics, data warehouses, business intelligence, data mining, predictive methods, and very large databases (VLDB). Prior to DataArchon, he served as a VP and Principal Analyst with Constellation Group. He is a member of the Boulder (Colo.) Brain Trust, an organization with a mission “to benefit the Business Intelligence and data management industry by providing pro bono exchange of information between vendors and independent analysts on new trends and technologies and to provide vendors with constructive feedback on their of...
Software AG helps organizations transform into Digital Enterprises, so they can differentiate from competitors and better engage customers, partners and employees. Using the Software AG Suite, companies can close the gap between business and IT to create digital systems of differentiation that drive front-line agility. We offer four on-ramps to the Digital Enterprise: alignment through collaborative process analysis; transformation through portfolio management; agility through process automation and integration; and visibility through intelligent business operations and big data.
There will be 50 billion Internet connected devices by 2020. Today, every manufacturer has a propriety protocol and an app. How do we securely integrate these "things" into our lives and businesses in a way that we can easily control and manage? Even better, how do we integrate these "things" so that they control and manage each other so our lives become more convenient or our businesses become more profitable and/or safe? We have heard that the best interface is no interface. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Co-Founder & CTO at Octoblu, Inc., will discuss how these devices generate enough data to learn our behaviors and simplify/improve our lives. What if we could connect everything to everything? I'm not only talking about connecting things to things but also systems, cloud services, and people. Add in a little machine learning and artificial intelligence and now we have something interesting...
Last week, while in San Francisco, I used the Uber app and service four times. All four experiences were great, although one of the drivers stopped for 30 seconds and then left as I was walking up to the car. He must have realized I was a blogger. None the less, the next car was just a minute away and I suffered no pain. In this article, my colleague, Ved Sen, Global Head, Advisory Services Social, Mobile and Sensors at Cognizant shares his experiences and insights.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) irreversibly encoded. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, will look at how this identity problem can be solved and discuss ways to use existing web identities for real-time communication.
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT. Attendees will learn real-world benefits of WebRTC and explore future possibilities, as WebRTC and IoT intersect to improve customer service.
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, will share some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, an Open Source Cloud Communications company that helps the shift from legacy IN/SS7 telco networks to IP-based cloud comms. An early investor in multiple start-ups, he still finds time to code for his companies and contribute to open source projects.
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to create new business models as significant as those that were inspired by the Internet and the smartphone 20 and 10 years ago. What business, social and practical implications will this phenomenon bring? That's the subject of "Monetizing the Internet of Things: Perspectives from the Front Lines," an e-book released today and available free of charge from Aria Systems, the leading innovator in recurring revenue management.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges.
There’s Big Data, then there’s really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at 6th Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, to discuss how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Erik Lagerway, Co-founder of Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services to the modern P2P RTC era of OTT cloud assisted services.
While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehension and conference efficiency.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, will discuss single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example to explain some of these concepts including when to use different storage models.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridstore delivers vmOptimized™ Storage that self-optimizes to each application or VM across both virtual and physical environments. Leveraging a grid architecture, Gridstore delivers the first end-to-end storage QoS to ensure the most important App or VM performance is never compromised. The storage grid, that uses Gridstore’s performance optimized nodes or capacity optimized nodes, starts with as few a...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace. These technological reforms have not only changed computers and smartphones, but are also changing the data processing model for all information devices. In particular, in the area known as M2M (Machine-To-Machine), there are great expectations that information with a new type of value can be produced using a variety of devices and sensors saving/sharing data via the network and through large-scale cloud-type data processing. This consortium believes that attaching a huge number of devic...