3 Replies Latest reply on Jun 21, 2006 2:03 PM by Newsgroup_User

    Flex and large real world b2b applications

    TKJames
      Hi all.

      I am new to Flex. I am acting in an architect capacity to review the potential in Flex to become the client presentation layer for a classic ASP?SQL application. I am seeking a cross-browser, cross-platform, zero-installation, just-in-time-delivery, rich user experience web application client. I think I'm in the right place.

      My aim in creating this post is to solicit feedback on approaches and techniques on how to plan and execute a major-system re-write into Flex, what is in-scope and what is not, etc. With the Flex team putting the final touches into release 1.0, this might be considered a bit too soon to ask these questions, but worthy of response if Flex is to be take as anything more than ‘something to do with that flash games thing that my kids play on’.

      One of the key issues for my client company, which I believe will be typical for many in the same situation, is to retain current investment in the system by re-use of the business logic and DB access layers. Basically the back-end is not broken and is well prepared for generation of XML instead of HTML. What is considered weak, by nature of the web browsers poor user interface abilities, is the client side of the system.

      The company has a small, loyal and technically able workforce who are very familiar with the current system, which is written using classic ASP and SQL Server , HTML and JavaScript. The company is risk and runaway cost averse. It has held back from jumping into .Net for fear of getting into a costly 5 year revision cycle as .Net matures. The AJAX approach is another potentially fruitful client-only route but is likely to be a painful way forward as there is no major technology vendor leading the charge on standards. A Java approach would meet the user interface improvement needs but would require replacing or retraining the current workforce and a paradigm shift in the technology losing all of the middle-tier database logic.

      The ideal is a stable zero-installation web-client that can communicate with a server back-end consisting of the same, or slightly modified or wrapped business logic and db configuration as the current system and that could then run side-by-side during switchover.

      If this is possible then risk adverse organisations have a way forward.

      The problem is, that from several docs and articles on Adobe's web site, there seems to be some careful but vague positioning of the capability of Flex in terms of application complexity and depth. Also, the demo's that are available seem to be quite lightweight compared to real-world needs. These apps ‘seem’ to work in a mode where the entire application is downloaded in one-hit at user initiation. The assumption is that the user will be prepared to pay some wait time for a better UX, but there must be a limit.

      Question:: How does one go about crafting in Flex what would have been a 300-page website when produced in HTML? Is this practical? To create a download containing the drawing instructions and page-logic for 300 pages would probably cause such a delay at user-initiation that it would not be practical.

      There are many further questions that span from here, but lets see what we get back from the post so far.

      Looking forward to reading responses.

      J.
        • 1. Re: Flex and large real world b2b applications
          Level 7
          You're absolutely in the right place (IMO)...

          Cynergy Systems can help you get started. We are a Flex Alliance partner,
          and have developed some extremely complex RIAs with Flex.

          Contact our VP of Consulting - Dave Wolf for more info:
          dave.wolf@cynergysystems.com

          --
          Paul Horan
          Cynergy Systems, Inc.
          Macromedia Flex Alliance Partner
          http://www.cynergysystems.com
          Office: 866-CYNERGY


          "TKJames" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
          news:e7baq7$7fu$1@forums.macromedia.com...
          > Hi all.
          >
          > I am new to Flex. I am acting in an architect capacity to review the
          > potential
          > in Flex to become the client presentation layer for a classic ASP?SQL
          > application. I am seeking a cross-browser, cross-platform,
          > zero-installation,
          > just-in-time-delivery, rich user experience web application client. I
          > think I'm
          > in the right place.
          >
          > My aim in creating this post is to solicit feedback on approaches and
          > techniques on how to plan and execute a major-system re-write into Flex,
          > what
          > is in-scope and what is not, etc. With the Flex team putting the final
          > touches
          > into release 1.0, this might be considered a bit too soon to ask these
          > questions, but worthy of response if Flex is to be take as anything more
          > than
          > ?something to do with that flash games thing that my kids play on?.
          >
          > One of the key issues for my client company, which I believe will be
          > typical
          > for many in the same situation, is to retain current investment in the
          > system
          > by re-use of the business logic and DB access layers. Basically the
          > back-end is
          > not broken and is well prepared for generation of XML instead of HTML.
          > What is
          > considered weak, by nature of the web browsers poor user interface
          > abilities,
          > is the client side of the system.
          >
          > The company has a small, loyal and technically able workforce who are very
          > familiar with the current system, which is written using classic ASP and
          > SQL
          > Server , HTML and JavaScript. The company is risk and runaway cost
          > averse. It
          > has held back from jumping into .Net for fear of getting into a costly 5
          > year
          > revision cycle as .Net matures. The AJAX approach is another potentially
          > fruitful client-only route but is likely to be a painful way forward as
          > there
          > is no major technology vendor leading the charge on standards. A Java
          > approach
          > would meet the user interface improvement needs but would require
          > replacing or
          > retraining the current workforce and a paradigm shift in the technology
          > losing
          > all of the middle-tier database logic.
          >
          > The ideal is a stable zero-installation web-client that can communicate
          > with a
          > server back-end consisting of the same, or slightly modified or wrapped
          > business logic and db configuration as the current system and that could
          > then
          > run side-by-side during switchover.
          >
          > If this is possible then risk adverse organisations have a way forward.
          >
          > The problem is, that from several docs and articles on Adobe's web site,
          > there
          > seems to be some careful but vague positioning of the capability of Flex
          > in
          > terms of application complexity and depth. Also, the demo's that are
          > available
          > seem to be quite lightweight compared to real-world needs. These apps
          > ?seem? to
          > work in a mode where the entire application is downloaded in one-hit at
          > user
          > initiation. The assumption is that the user will be prepared to pay some
          > wait
          > time for a better UX, but there must be a limit.
          >
          > Question:: How does one go about crafting in Flex what would have
          > been
          > a 300-page website when produced in HTML? Is this practical? To create a
          > download containing the drawing instructions and page-logic for 300 pages
          > would
          > probably cause such a delay at user-initiation that it would not be
          > practical.
          >
          > There are many further questions that span from here, but lets see what we
          > get
          > back from the post so far.
          >
          > Looking forward to reading responses.
          >
          > J.
          >
          >


          • 2. Re: Flex and large real world b2b applications
            TKJames Level 1
            Paul,

            Thanks for the sales input. I read the Hager & Wolf article on Adobe's Flex pages so I already knew of your company.

            I should stress that, IMHO, to catapult acceptance into the mainstream and really accelerate revenue and profitability, Adobe needs to have strong scope in mind for Flex and that needs to include adoption by the average IT department without the need to rely on third party implementation specialists like Cynergy. I'd better stress that it also needs to ensure a full-product offering including support for training and consulting, so there ‘is’ a place for third party organisations and I have nothing bad to say about Cynergy, btw.

            There is another reason for Adobe to keep an open mind about letting end-user IT departments have free-range over the use of Flex, and it goes by the name of AJAX. On the one hand you could say the AJAX movement is an uncoordinated rabble of home enthusiasts trying to stretch JavaScript and web services into something they were never meant to be. But on the other, AJAX is almost drug-like in its instant gratification effect for programmers, it’s free, it has no ‘loading’ progress bar, and it produces a decent UX when done right. I would argue that implementations of the AJAX approach and the libraries that are already surfacing will give AJAX coders the ability to compete with Flex and possibly better it in some circumstances.

            I’ll stress again that I am pro-Flex, but not blindly so.

            Now, I am on this soapbox to raise some feedback on the approach and techniques required for using Flex for a 300+ page website. All of the above is relevant because my client is looking for a low-risk strategy (see original post) and that rules out the AJAX approach for now because it has no single technology backer. That is where Flex wins as Adobe is a big enough animal and the large-scale acceptance of Flash make a powerful combination. But it ‘is’ a two-horse race, by no means is it currently neck-and-neck, but the race is not over.

            So if writing Flex applications becomes some black-art that only those that pay high licences for membership of the 'in-crowd' are able to produce, then it will go the way of many other good ideas that came before it but failed to pay back the VC’s. Sure, lets let the pioneers make some money, but let no-one forget that it is the revenue from the conservative buyers – not the early adopters - that makes the lions share of the profit.

            I’d be delighted to have folks from other consulting organisations give input to the debate.

            J.
            • 3. Re: Flex and large real world b2b applications
              Level 7
              Why not try out the Flex 2.0 Beta? It is on our labs site:
              http://labs.adobe.com/flexproductline/

              Flex is easy to get up and running and you should find that it is quick to
              prototype.

              Jason


              --
              Jason Szeto
              Adobe Flex SDK Developer
              "TKJames" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
              news:e7bkcd$ivv$1@forums.macromedia.com...
              > Paul,
              >
              > Thanks for the sales input. I read the Hager & Wolf article on Adobe's
              > Flex
              > pages so I already knew of your company.
              >
              > I should stress that, IMHO, to catapult acceptance into the mainstream
              > and
              > really accelerate revenue and profitability, Adobe needs to have strong
              > scope
              > in mind for Flex and that needs to include adoption by the average IT
              > department without the need to rely on third party implementation
              > specialists
              > like Cynergy. I'd better stress that it also needs to ensure a
              > full-product
              > offering including support for training and consulting, so there ?is? a
              > place
              > for third party organisations and I have nothing bad to say about Cynergy,
              > btw.
              >
              > There is another reason for Adobe to keep an open mind about letting
              > end-user
              > IT departments have free-range over the use of Flex, and it goes by the
              > name of
              > AJAX. On the one hand you could say the AJAX movement is an uncoordinated
              > rabble of home enthusiasts trying to stretch JavaScript and web services
              > into
              > something they were never meant to be. But on the other, AJAX is almost
              > drug-like in its instant gratification effect for programmers, it?s free,
              > it
              > has no ?loading? progress bar, and it produces a decent UX when done
              > right. I
              > would argue that implementations of the AJAX approach and the libraries
              > that
              > are already surfacing will give AJAX coders the ability to compete with
              > Flex
              > and possibly better it in some circumstances.
              >
              > I?ll stress again that I am pro-Flex, but not blindly so.
              >
              > Now, I am on this soapbox to raise some feedback on the approach and
              > techniques required for using Flex for a 300+ page website. All of the
              > above is
              > relevant because my client is looking for a low-risk strategy (see
              > original
              > post) and that rules out the AJAX approach for now because it has no
              > single
              > technology backer. That is where Flex wins as Adobe is a big enough animal
              > and
              > the large-scale acceptance of Flash make a powerful combination. But it
              > ?is? a
              > two-horse race, by no means is it currently neck-and-neck, but the race is
              > not
              > over.
              >
              > So if writing Flex applications becomes some black-art that only those
              > that
              > pay high licences for membership of the 'in-crowd' are able to produce,
              > then
              > it will go the way of many other good ideas that came before it but failed
              > to
              > pay back the VC?s. Sure, lets let the pioneers make some money, but let
              > no-one
              > forget that it is the revenue from the conservative buyers ? not the early
              > adopters - that makes the lions share of the profit.
              >
              > I?d be delighted to have folks from other consulting organisations give
              > input
              > to the debate.
              >
              > J.
              >
              >