AJAX and the 6As

There is a lot of interest in AJAX development lately. Here is a very informative special report at InfoWorld.com and another special report on CNET and even Business Week is getting into the fray. But AJAX is really a lot about pent up demand. Microsoft dropped the ball on AJAX 5-6 years ago when it had developed the basic technology but decided it was inimical to the prevalence of the Windows desktop. So Redmond stopped all development of AJAX and more broadly all development of IE and any possible associated Web technologies. Now, 5 years later there is a rush on for the things that AJAX can deliver – very fast, “targetted” response time with desktop-like GUI interfaces and components.

However, the Web has moved on and started to address these and the 6As issues of UI delivery. Rival technologies have arisen primarily in the RIA sphere. Think Flash, Acrobat, Java Swing and J2ME as a few of the potential solutions. So now the question is how does AJAX measure up against these new and higher requirements.

AJAX versus the 6As

6A’s Delivery of Information means:
1)Immediate Access to information for 2)Anyone Authorized 3)Anytime, 4)Anywhere on 5)Any device in 6)Any format required. Lets look in detail at what each of these mean:
1)immediate access to information – implies fast connectability to the various sources of information required and then ongoing fast response time to a spectrum of information requests and transactions. This latter requirement implies top rank scalability and reliability of the platform plus interoperability and high interactivity of the application software;
2)Anyone authorized – implies an identity and authentication system able to robustly determine and grant appropriate levels of access. This means read, execute, append, update, delete access to data and control configurations for accessing apps and data and in turn changing privileges of others for doing so;
3)Anytime-this may put the demanding 24×7 operational requirements on a system with the very tough availability versus maintainability trade-offs that implies;
4)Anywhere– this also may put demanding local, connected plus remote requirements on a system especially when customers and suppliers permeate systems usage. Again this imposes very tough security, reliability, availability and transparent connectability requirements which have corresponding costs and risks. But there is one more component to anywhere – the ability to work online or offline and to flit between the two as connectability, sheer movement and costs dictate;
5)Any device has popped up from time to time over the past 20 years as intelligent devices take advantage of ever improving size-speed-power-cost ratios associated with chips, storage and bandwidth. In 2005 it is no stretch to say mobile phones and other portable devices need to participate on even keel with desktops in accessing information.
6)Any format required – implies that audio, video, animations, 3D are expected and allowed to be used as much as text and desktop bitmap components. Again, this puts performance versus cost trade-offs – especially in the online world on-the-line.
So these are the new UI requirements that AJAX has to measure up to.

Here is a hopefully thoughtfull assessment of how AJAX measures up:
1)Immediate access to information – This is what AJAX promotes. But there is a word of caution here. XML connectivity to data sources is mixed baggage as Web Services developers have seen. Great for adhoc and a few of a kind transactions; not so good when heavy data lifting is required. Also as with any new emerging technology, the connections to EDI, CORBA, JMS, Messaging frameworks and other rich data sources will be mixed until the technology get its “popularly used” running legs.
2)Anyone authorized – the full security regalia get upset with AJAX because it does not run inside a secured container and only with possible authentication of the code by browsers. The fact that the code is dense is no defense against hackers who can easily get at the transparent source. So, like regular JavaScript on the Web, security is a concern for AJAX.
3)Anytime – AJAX should have no problems delivering here.
4)Anywhere – JavaScript is fairly well Open Source and moves between major desktop and most server OS platforms fairly comfortably. But on the notion of offline and online operation, the story is very much more mixed. AJAX Vendors say they can enable it – be from Missouri.
5)Any device – JavaScript has not gone anywhere in 5-6 years since Netscape was de-oygenated. Acrobat and Flash are really carrying the torch of JavaScript to smart devices most actively. But Java also has a strong foothold. This means AJAX more likely plays with rival RIA to get broad, Any device coverage.
6)Any format required. AJAX alone is of mixed quality here even for audio. SVG and SMIL was effectively stifled so Acrobat, Flash, and other RIA technologies have to be used. But this starts to beg the question – why not just use the underlying RIA technologies.
So the bottom line is that AJAX is an attractive approach in the Desktop to Server strict Web usage. But it is not a sure thing in the broader 6As requirements that IT and computing are scrambling towards over the next 3-6 years. Watch for joint solutions of AJAX + Flash or Java. But also watch for the reverse, Java or Flash primarily with a dab of AJAX.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005