Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Java Pet Store with AJAX & XML

My colleague Mark Schiefelbein has written an nice article for BEA Dev2dev in which he explains how we've rebuilt the Java Pet Store with AJAX and the Backbase XML Pipeline Server. The Java Pet Store is a well-know Java example application.

A common problem with AJAXifying an existing application is that the existing back-end is not optimized for an AJAX front-end: usually the flow of events is slightly different, and the data loading patterns are more 'on-demand'. The XML Server creates a bridge between disparate back-end systems and the Backbase AJAX engine. It can link to databases, Java objects, Web Services and custom connectors. Using an XML pipeline language you can link everything together. You can have a look at the AJAXified Pet Store here:

So although the Backbase AJAX Engine itself is a client-only application written in JavaScript, you can use various server-side add-ons that speed up AJAX application development. Backbase has both J2EE and .NET compatible products: the XML Server works on both J2EE and .NET, and the .NET Server features WYSIWYG AJAX application development using Visual Studio.NET. We're also working on a similar JSF application that uses Eclipse for WYSIWYG development.

Backbase has been classified both as a multi-platform technology (see Wikipedia) and as a pure JavaScript application (AJAX Patterns). We are actually both: we have a client-only AJAX engine, complemented with (optional) server-side components for .NET and J2EE. We feel this gives more flexibility than products with a mandatory back-end such as JPSpan (PHP), DWR (Java), AJAX.NET (.NET) or WebORB (.NET & Java). And more power than client-only products such as Dojo and OpenRico.

Some people ask why we don't offer a PHP version. Of course, you can use our client-only version together with PHP: actually, we'll soon launch a very interesting sample application that uses this combination. The difficulty with PHP is that there is no standard for GUI development. At Backbase we like to adhere to standards, so we've select JSF for Java, and use the defacto standard for .NET: Visual Studio.NET. But we haven't found a similar standard for PHP. I'm open to suggestions here, so let me know through the comments, of via jep [at] backbase [.] com.


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