Chances and Risks of AJAX in Enterprise Applications

Markus Eisele did an interesting speech at the W-JAX conference last year about “Chances and Risks of AJAX in Enterprise Applications”.

Here you can find the presentation:

Unfortunately it’s only available in German, so I try to give you the key-points in the following.

First, Markus described the characteristics of (inter-)”enterprise” applications, compared to e.g. public web-applications like flickr or Google:

  • Instrument for business performance
  • Robustness and reliability
  • Cost-effectiveness (TCO)
  • Performance requirements
  • Handling of mass data
  • Testability
  • Proven tools, methodologies and software-architectures for software-development (e.g. MVC)

Concerning all this, a new technology like AJAX offers some chances but also some challenges, namely:

  • Centralized administration of clients (perhaps browser-versions 4.x) and security settings which prohibit the extensive use of JavaScript
  • Heterogeneous client-infrastructure (PCs, hand-helds, kiosk-systems, …)
  • Lack of tools to develop, debug and test AJAX- (or JavaScript-)based applications
  • Danger to do business-logic within the presentation layer
  • AJAX is there to increase usability, but it not always does (print web-page, bookmarking, browser back-button, …)

To encounter those challenges, Markus recommended the server-side development and generation of AJAX-code within standardized frameworks like J2EE/JSF or .Net. As suitable areas to use AJAX within enterprise apps he identified:

  • Asynchronous loading/update of worklists within workflow-systems
  • Complex forms (dynamic loading of page-fragments instead of clicking through a lot of pages)
  • Dynamic, on-demand loading of data-records for tree-structures and similar
  • Client-side sort and filtering of datasets
  • Automatic text-completion in input-fields (e.g. Google Suggest)

He finished with a quote from Ray Valdes (Gartner):

“The bottom line is it [AJAX] can result in an
improved user experience, which offers
significant business value, but that is not
automatic. Many developers will do what they
always do—they don’t understand user-centric
design. We’ve seen this with Java applets.
We’ve seen this with Flash.”


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