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Good Panel Discussion on AJAX, Web 2.0, and SOA

Posted by edort on May 18, 2006 at 1:33 PM PDT

I just came back from a panel discussion titled "Java Technology, AJAX, Web 2.0, and SOA". The session brought together four pretty savvy guys in the web application and web framework world: Rod Johnson, CEO of Interface 21 and creator of the Spring Framework; Dion Hinchcliffe, co-founder and CTO of Sphere of Influence, an enterprise architecture firm; John MacDonald, a principal in Sabre Holdings (Sabre is responsible for many of the major applications in the airline travel industry); and Craig McClanahan, Senior Engineer at Sun and architect of Sun's Java Studio Creator product (McClanahan was also co-spec lead for JSF 1.1 and is the original developer of Apache Struts). The session was moderated by Deepak Alur and Dan Malks of JackBe, an AJAX solutions provider.

I thought this was a pretty good session. One refreshing thing I heard from Malks is that he and Alur conceived of the session because they were confused by a lot of the newly emerging terminology and ideas related to Web 2.0, web services, and the like. In fact, they kept a slide up during the entire session that showed many of the buzz words, like "mashup", and acroynms that architects and developers inevitably sprinkle into their talk these days. It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one confused by a lot of this.

This was a question and answer session. Some of the questions came from Alur and Malks, some from the audience. Here are some of the Q&As I found particularly interesting. Note that I can't write fast and my memory ain't what it used to be. So what I've recorded is incomplete at best and perhaps incorrect at points.

Malks: What do you think is the relevance of Web 2.0 to your business?

Hinchcliffe: What we're really seeing in Web 2.0 is the 2-way web, where people are contributing as much content as they're consuming. It's a social networking phenomenon.

McClanahan: Web 2.0 is a lot of technologies that we've had for years but that are now coming into general use.

Johnson: To me, the interesting thing about Web 2.0 is that it's finally happening. I've worked for clients like the Financial Times who moved in the late 90s to a highly interactive, highly JavaScript-driven site. But by 2000 they pushed back to a pretty static site. They were back to where they were in the early 90s. So it's good to see that the push for interactivity has returned.

Audience: What about the move to easier, lightweight frameworks?

Hinchcliffe: What we have to deal with right now is different abstractions: Java, XML, SQL, ... The move to a single abstraction such as Ruby on Rails is good.

McClanahan: We haven't matured as much on the client side as on the server side.

Malks: What is Sabre doing to open up some of it applications as web services?

MacDonald: We've made more than 60 applications available as web services. But we're finding that people are using them in unintended ways, ways that the services were never intended for. So that's exposing some problems.

Malks: Are we at the point yet where our companies can completely model their business with an object model?

Johnson: It's difficult because most business have everything. One client I work with has 43 seperate systems based on 9 radically different technologies.

Audience: What advice would you give a J2EE developer who wants to develop Web 2.0 applications?

Hinchcliffe: Design for unexpected uses.