Rich Web Applications: the business benefits of Web-enabled application development.MANAGEMENT SUMMARY
Rich Web Applications (RWAs) are browser-based, Rich Internet Applications This is a list of rich Internet applications. They are organised by their use. Communication
RWA Romance Writers of America
RWA Routing and Wavelength Assignment
RWA Regional Water Authority
RWA Risk-Weighted Assets
RWA Reaction Wheel Assembly
RWA Right Wing Authoritarianism (psychology) , Web 2.0 for business (or Enterprise Web 2.0), and evolutionary changes in IT infrastructure like Service Oriented Architecture (SOA (1) (Start Of Authority) The first record in a DNS zone file. See DNS records.
(2) (Service Oriented Architecture) The modularization of business functions for greater flexibility and reusability. ), are creating new opportunities for business. Note on terminology: The IT industry uses the terms RIA (Rich Internet Application) A Web-based application that approaches the speed and elegance of a local application. An RIA may refer to a browser-based application that uses AJAX or another enhanced coding technique. and RWA interchangeably; however, we make a technical distinction in this Report. RIA applies to any client-server system Client-server system
A computing system that is composed of two logical parts: a server, which provides services, and a client, which requests them. The two parts can run on separate machines on a network, allowing users to access powerful server resources connected by the Internet, whereas RWA covers a sub-set of RIA that is World Wide Web browser-based.
* RIA will be the default mode in application development as the Internet further progresses its transition from technology to part of the fabric of everyday society.
* RWA and Web 2.0 ideas are being transferred to Enterprise Web 2.0, opening up new business opportunities, such as rapid business process development and reuse.
* Security deficiencies mean that mixing Web services (1) Loosely, any online service delivered over the Web. Such usage appears in articles from non-technical sources, but not in IT-oriented publications, because definition #2 below describes the correct use of the term. (or mashing) in Enterprise Web 2.0-type applications cannot yet extend safely beyond the firewall.
* Currently, businesses need separate security policies for Internet and Intranet Web services. Intranet Web services must never be risked beyond the firewall and therefore need to be governed.
* The progress of SOA and Business Process Management (BPM) into the enterprise will require presentation-layer applications, for which RWA are ideal.
* RIA will feed into other areas of IT, so that Web-enabled IT products will have richer user interfaces; for example, in Business Intelligence.
* Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) will be given a significant technology enhancement by RWA, making it more attractive to customers.
* RWAs are now on the boundary between early adopter and early mainstream stages.
The Internet is transforming society and business. The current wave of this technology revolution, called Web 2.0, followed the initial wave (Web 1.0) that collapsed with the dot.com boom and bust In economics, the term boom and bust refers to the movement of an economy through economic cycles. The Boom-Bust economic cycle
According to most economists, an economic boom is typically characterized by an increased level of economic output (GDP), a corresponding . Today, 'always-on', pervasive broadband is making access to the Internet easy enough for it to be no longer considered as a 'technology' but a part of the fabric of modern living, like the telephone or television. The key advantages of using the Internet can be summed up as 'always on and everywhere', reachable from mobile devices, laptops, and desktop machines.
in full Extensible Markup Language.
Today, additional technologies compete with Ajax to provide a similar concept of desktop-like behaviour, but with superior multimedia capabilities--browser plug-ins such as Adobe Flash Player The Adobe Flash Player is a widely distributed multimedia and application player created and distributed by Macromedia (a division of Adobe Systems). Flash Player runs SWF files that can be created by the Adobe Flash authoring tool, by Adobe Flex or by a number of other Macromedia and, the recent entrant to the market, Microsoft Silverlight Microsoft Silverlight (code-named Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere or WPF/E) is a proprietary runtime for browser-based Rich Internet Applications, providing a subset of the animation, vector graphics, and video playback capabilities of Windows Presentation . In addition, RWA solutions are also possible with the Java platform Running Java programs under the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Java "platform" refers to the running of Java programs versus Java itself, which is a programming language. Java programs are machine independent and run intact on any hardware platform that has a Java interpreter (JVM). and with Microsoft .NET See .NET. Framework version 3.
The Web is increasingly important for business. A measure of how business has turned to this medium is revealed by the latest advertising expenditure figures. They show that for the first time, on-line advertising in the UK has exceeded that of national newspapers, at UK[pounds sterling]2 billion. It is also the fastest growing at 41%, when TV, the highest sector, is showing a small decline. This level of advertising is rewarding UK business with on-line retail revenue earnings of UK[pounds sterling]3.6 billion in 2006 (according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. IMRG IMRG Interactive Media in Retail Group ). Furthermore, the Web is almost the equal to TV in holding on to peoples' time, making it the place to reach out to new and existing consumers. This business activity is just one indication of why the Web is important for business. Businesses need to devise a Web strategy, and the question of using RWA, as well as experimenting with Web 2.0 concepts, should be part of the consideration process. The implications of RWA for business are multi-fold and can be summarised as follows:
* Internal use of RWA for providing the presentation layer to SOA.
* Internal use of RWA for providing the presentation layer in composite applications, such as mixing Web services and other data sources, including enterprise applications and legacy systems.
* Helping re-engineer business processes for rapid reaction to business opportunities.
* Moving application development from silo, departmental activity, to a Web-based one with greater potential for reuse. For example, an internal Software-as-a-Service model.
* New security risks related to RWA that need addressing.
The drivers behind consumer-led Web 2.0 are also relevant to businesses: these concepts are being transferred to what is called 'Enterprise Web 2.0'. Table 1 shows the distinguishing features of Web 2.0, compared with the first wave of Web development, and these include:
* Multimedia content in contrast with document-centric HyperText Markup Language (hypertext, World-Wide Web, standard) Hypertext Markup Language - (HTML) A hypertext document format used on the World-Wide Web. HTML is built on top of SGML. "Tags" are embedded in the text. A tag consists of a "<", a "directive" (in lower case), zero or more parameters and a ">". (HTML HTML
in full HyperText Markup Language
Markup language derived from SGML that is used to prepare hypertext documents. Relatively easy for nonprogrammers to master, HTML is the language used for documents on the World Wide Web. ).
* Facilities for users to upload as well as download; for example, the growth of Flickr, Friends Reunited Friends Reunited is a portfolio of social networking websites based upon the themes of reunion with former friends, family-history research, dating and job-hunting. , MySpace, Wikipedia, and YouTube are all due to user-added content.
* The Internet becomes the 'platform' with mashups that combine Web services to create new applications; for example, Bikely mashes Google maps Google Maps (for a time named Google Local) is a free web mapping service application and technology provided by Google that powers many map-based services including the Google Maps website, Google Ride Finder and embedded maps on third-party websites via the Google Maps to help plan bicycle routes, and Zillow mashes maps and real-estate information.
* Applications are no longer constrained by HTML and single-channel response/request; with RIAs a second channel can be used to work in the background, managing data more efficiently between client and server, while the user interacts with the UI.
* Web 2.0 allows a Web strategy to go beyond simply exploiting reach; now Web services and Web applications can be used in unforeseen ways, leading to emergent value.
The move within enterprises to SOA and internal Web services creates opportunities for Intranet mashups, exploiting reuse to good effect and allowing business power users to rapidly respond to business opportunities. With Enterprise Web 2.0, power users can transform and re-combine internal business processes in new ways.
The use of RWA is already evident within the IT industry as, for example, Business Intelligence vendors provide the option of Web access to applications with rich UIs. RWA also improves the SaaS proposition, as application interfaces become comparable to those on the desktop; Butler Group expects to see SaaS adoption increase as a result. SaaS is a software delivery model where the provider offers a hosted application across the Internet. Customers access the application using a Web interface and pay for usage according to various licensing models: per instance use, per allocated time, or on a subscription basis. The use of RWA for the UI offers a considerable way to improve the user experience, making SaaS a more attractive proposition.
The concept of mixing Web services, or mashups, is also an important part of Web 2.0; for example, geo-mapping information is combined with other specialist information to create a new service (e.g. www.housingmaps.com combines Google maps and Craigs List rented accommodation information to visually show rental availability).
However, addressing security is important if these types of applications are to succeed. Businesses need to implement separate policies for Internet and Intranet RWA; Internet exposure of Web services should not take place without strong security and governance in place.
Software application development is currently going through a transition, extending the most common architecture of multi-tier client/server, to composite applications and RIA. Of course the idea of 'client-side' and 'server-side' remains unchanged in RIA, but the distinction is that traditional client/server systems are separated by Local Area Networks and/or Wide Area Networks, whereas with RIA the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP TCP/IP
in full Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol
Standard Internet communications protocols that allow digital computers to communicate over long distances. ) protocol is used, whether on the Internet or Intranet. Composite applications are built from components, objects, and Web services within a loosely-coupled, standardised application environment created by SOA. RIAs provide a natural presentation layer for applications built within SOA.
The types of RIA fall into three main categories: browser-based with no plug-ins; browser-based with plug-ins; and out-of-browser. Butler Group uses the term 'RWAs' to refer to browser-based RIAs. The open literature uses RIA and RWA interchangeably in an unclear manner without distinguishing the possibility for non-Web-related protocols that could be used on TCP/IP. However, the market at the moment is active mainly with RWA.
Browser-based applications connect to the World Wide Web (Web) using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol See HTTP.
(protocol) Hypertext Transfer Protocol - (HTTP) The client-server TCP/IP protocol used on the World-Wide Web for the exchange of HTML documents. It conventionally uses port 80.
Latest version: HTTP 1.1, defined in RFC 2068, as of May 1997. (HTTP HTTP
in full HyperText Transfer Protocol
Standard application-level protocol used for exchanging files on the World Wide Web. HTTP runs on top of the TCP/IP protocol. ). Most Internet activity today revolves around Web sites and Web applications. RWAs using Ajax render the presentation in HTML within the browser. Although such applications are rich in the UI interaction, they are limited in richness of multimedia content.
Browser plug-ins enhance the functionality available in the browser and especially so for multimedia content; examples are Adobe Flash, Java Runtime Engine Software that certain applications depend on to run in the computer. The runtime engine must be running in the computer in order for the application to execute. It provides common routines and functions that the applications require, and it typically converts the program, which is in an and Applets, and Microsoft Silverlight.
The third category of RIA takes the application out of the browser. It is possible to build applications that connect via the Internet outside the browser using a number of protocols, not just HTTP (the Web protocol), and for custom, in-house applications this is an option to be considered. There is another mode of use where applications can be taken off-line when the user is away from an Internet connection--for example, when working in the field with a customer--and then re-connect later to synchronise Verb 1. synchronise - happen at the same time
contemporise, contemporize, synchronize
hap, happen, occur, come about, take place, go on, pass off, fall out, pass - come to pass; "What is happening?"; "The meeting took place off without an incidence"; with the back-end.
Some of the benefits of working with RIA, explored in greater depth in this Report, include:
* Ease of application administration, maintenance, and update through a centralised Adj. 1. centralised - drawn toward a center or brought under the control of a central authority; "centralized control of emergency relief efforts"; "centralized government"
centralized server-side point.
* Ease of application delivery via Internet/Intranet.
* Complements Web services, composite applications, and SOA.
* Encourages reuse through a clear separation of presentation layer, business logic, and data model.
* Makes it easy to create a single application with multiple presentation client-sides: mobile devices or fixed machines.
* Reduces spread of application viruses through centralised control of application on the server-side.
* Can cater for a range of thin to fat options on the client-side.
The versatility that RIAs provide, when combined with other trends in the IT infrastructure (such as SOA), will lead to a point, in Butler Group's opinion, when RIA will become the default mode of application delivery.
Butler Group advocates creating separate Web services and RIA policies for Intranet and Internet use; in particular, internally created Web services must not be accessed from the Internet without first passing through internal governance controls. The idea that Enterprise 2.0 mashups can be created by combining external Web services with internal ones is too early and currently unsafe.
The types of RIA vendors can be categorised as follows:
* Ajax toolkits and widget Pronounced "wih-jit," for decades, the term has been a popular word for a generic "thing" when there is no real name for it. It is often used to describe examples of made-up products along with other fictitious names; for example, "10 widgets, 5 frabbits and 2 dingits. libraries: There are both open source software and commercially-priced examples. This category will be used by developers wishing to build RIA from the ground up as custom software. For general business use, this category is not relevant.
* Pure Ajax frameworks with light client-side footprints: In this category there are advanced Ajax frameworks that manage the communication between user interaction and widgets and application state synchronisation Noun 1. synchronisation - the relation that exists when things occur at the same time; "the drug produces an increased synchrony of the brain waves"
synchroneity, synchronicity, synchronism, synchronization, synchronizing, synchrony between the client- and server- sides. They also provide robust security measures Noun 1. security measures - measures taken as a precaution against theft or espionage or sabotage etc.; "military security has been stepped up since the recent uprising"
security , have compatible widget libraries out-of-the-box, and provide their own Integrated Development Environments See IDE.
integrated development environment - interactive development environment (IDEs) or RIA builder plug-ins to standard IDEs.
* RIA with browser plug-ins: Whereas Ajax renders in HTML, a browser plug-in can provide a container for the rendering of advanced formats such as vector graphics The representation of a digital image as points, lines and other geometric entities. All computer-aided design (CAD), drawing and diagramming programs create vector graphics formats, such as AI, DXF and WMF (see graphics formats). . Examples are Adobe Flash player, Java Applets, and Microsoft Silverlight.
* RIA with heavy client-side application platforms: Applications built with the Java platform or Microsoft .NET Framework on the client-side fall into this category. These applications can connect to servers using the Internet outside the browser or combine with Ajax and use the browser.
* End-to-end application development environments: Whereas the other categories are tools designed for programmers, there are end-to-end development environments with advanced Graphical User Interface graphical user interface (GUI)
Computer display format that allows the user to select commands, call up files, start programs, and do other routine tasks by using a mouse to point to pictorial symbols (icons) or lists of menu choices on the screen as opposed to having to (GUI (Graphical User Interface) A graphics-based user interface that incorporates movable windows, icons and a mouse. The ability to resize application windows and change style and size of fonts are the significant advantages of a GUI vs. a character-based interface. ) drag-and-drop facilities for creating RIA. These tools can be used by power users, domain experts, and business analysts with limited programming skills.
* Rest of the market: A number of proprietary RIA solutions are still available (such as Curl), but given the move towards open standards Specifications for hardware and software that are developed by a standards organization or a consortium involved in supporting a standard. Available to the public for developing compliant products, open standards imply "open systems;" that an existing component in a system can be replaced , it is unlikely they will grow; rather we expect decrease in market share. Butler Group expects RIA vendor rationalisation to take place as market adoption increases. The greatest market adoption in RIA is currently in RWA, which is past the early adopter stage and into the early majority. The chief market trend in RWA is for existing Web development tools to add their own Ajax capability.
The larger vendors, such as Adobe, Microsoft, and TIBCO TIBCO The Information Bus Company , are appealing to the developer mass market and offer free tools to grow the market for their premium, enterprise products. Sun is also appealing to the developer community by providing its tools as open source in order to grow the Java platform. IBM (International Business Machines Corporation, Armonk, NY, www.ibm.com) The world's largest computer company. IBM's product lines include the S/390 mainframes (zSeries), AS/400 midrange business systems (iSeries), RS/6000 workstations and servers (pSeries), Intel-based servers (xSeries) supports open source Eclipse and many Web 2.0 projects, including the DoJo do·jo
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[Japanese d Ajax toolkit provider. We believe it likely that IBM will make an acquisition in this space.
Smaller players have a more business-focused, go-to-market strategy, appealing to business needs rather than the IT department. Opportunities occur in the Small- to Medium-sized Enterprise (SME (1) (Small and Medium-sized Enterprise) See SMB.
(2) (Subject Matter Expert) An individual who is well-versed in the policies and procedures of a particular department or division. ) market and at departmental levels within large organisations, where providing a solution that encompasses business requirements gathering, development processes and Agile methodologies, and with supporting development tools, will prove to be attractive.
The end-to-end, Web-based application See Web application. development tool providers, notably edge IPK IPK Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung Gatersleben (Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research)
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The toolkit projects--many that are open source and appearing in our Vendor Profiles, in Section 8--are mainly aimed at the mass developer market and also feed into higher-value frameworks.
Conclusion As the Internet progresses in its transition from a 'technology' to part of the everyday fabric of society, then more business services and applications will be based on its presence. To be part of this trend, businesses need tostart an internal RWA investigation, if they have not already done so, to understand the skills they require and which applications they need to build. This Report will help in selecting the right technology, implementing the right roll-out strategy, and choosing an appropriate RWA development tool or tools.
Table 1. Table 1: Characterising Web 2.0 Web 1.0 Web 2.0 User Interface HTML Rich, multimedia Data User Consumes User creates and consumes Platform Server-side The whole Web Applications Constrained Web services, mashups, RIAs Strategy Reach Self-service, self-organised, emergent value Source: Butler Group DATAMONITOR