Posted by: Steve Hamm on January 6, 2006
Man, did I step in a sinkhole when I published a story about Java on the BW Online Tech Channel a few weeks back. A lot of commentators called me stupid, and worse, for saying that Java has lost momentum recently compared to Microsoft’s .Net and some other programming tools and toolsets—including AJAX. I’m no programmer, and I chose to simplify some of my descriptions of technologies so I would not leave many readers behind. That seemed to outrage some people. I have been gratified since then to talk to CTO-types and be assured that I’m not an idiot, after all.
One point that several of my critics made was that I obviously didn’t understand what I was talking about since I asserted that somebody might use AJAX as an alternative to Java. People also said AJAX isn’t used in enterprise computing—just in the Web 2.0 Zone. Well, people do use AJAX as an alternative to Java, and they do use AJAX in enteprise applications. A case in point is GridApp Systems, a three-year-old New York software company that sells an application for managing large numbers of corporate databases.
GridApp, begun in 2002, built its application, Clarity, to run on an open-source stack of software including Linux, the Apache Web server, the Postgres database, and the PHP scripting language. No Java involved. "It's not really cross platform," explains Chief Scientist Matthew Zito. GridApp first used AJAX to perform some of the basic technology plumbing in its application, which runs on a server and is viewed via a browser.
Then it considered using the Java programming language to build a client piece of its application that would be downloaded from the Internet to a users' PC. The reason it considered this was that its application had some rough edges. Database administrators looked at static Web pages full of information about their databases, and, every 15 seconds or so, the pages would refresh--going blank for a second--and then re-appear with updated information. Not optimal. GridApp ultimately decided against writing a Java client and instead used AJAX to solve the problem. Using the AJAX toolkit, it modified its application so that data is updated real-time without having to refresh entire Web pages. The new version of Clarity is in beta-test mode now and is coming out in commercial release in February.
Says Zito: "Sure there will be applications that Java and J2EE makes sense for. But it's very complicated, there's a soup of different Java standards. I'd be hard pressed to think of a situation where I'd want to build an enterprise Web application with Java. It's like swatting a fly with a two-by-four. I want the technology stack that lets me build the highest quality code with the least amount of effort and the fewest people, and that's going to generate the highest customer satisfaction."
And this just in: I just found out that MySpace, the mega-kid-community Web site, with 47 million regular users, is switching tools. It has outgrown ColdFusion and is switching, not to Java/J2EE, but to .NET.