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Backbase 4.2 Includes New Data Services and Spring MVC Connector Among Its Features

by Matthew Bass on Jun 03, 2008 |

Backbase released version 4.2 of their Enterprise Ajax for Java framework just over a week ago. This new release offers Java developers a complete AJAX platform with baked-in support for many of the frameworks they currently use, including Struts, Spring MVC and Java Server Faces. Backbase's ultimate goal with Enterprise Ajax for Java is to provide a standards-based alternative to plugins like Flex and Silverlight, offering similar features, support, and development tools.

InfoQ got in touch with Michel Gerin and Jep Castelein at Backbase to find out more about this release.

What's new in this release?

  • New Data Services make it easy to pull data with very little programming effort. Raw XML can be transformed into Java Data Objects for easy manipulation.

  • JSF support enables Progressive HTML Enhancement and supports third-party AJAX clients like Google gadgets, YUI widgets, etc.

  • The Struts connector now takes full advantage of Data Services, supports Struts 2.0, and includes an updated sample application.

  • Spring MVC is also supported as a new connector.

Michel confirmed that unobtrusive JavaScript is already being used in the framework:

Unobtrusive JavaScript is only now being recognized as an emerging paradigm while it
has been intrinsic to Backbase for 4 years. This demonstrates how far ahead the
Backbase architecture is.

What about other frameworks?

What makes Enterprise Ajax for Java different from other open source frameworks? Prototype, for example, also enables developers to write AJAX-enabled pages and is completely free. Jep answers:

Most of the open source Ajax frameworks are client-only, and not specific to Java.
Some other open source frameworks are Java-specific, but they require Java (Icefaces,
GWT), so there's no client-only version. Backbase Enterprise Ajax is unique in that
it offers both a Java-specific and a client-only version.

Better features and a higher level of support are also advantages offered by Backbase, as Jep explains:

[Enterprise Ajax for Java] is focused on the more complex Ajax projects: it does not
only come with over 250 widgets and functions, but also implements many W3C standards,
such as XPath 2.0 and SMIL. Backbase has a 24x7 support desk and a world-wide consulting
team to support the most demanding customers. Prototype is a very lightweight library
without pre-built widgets, better suited to relatively simple Ajax projects, and it
does not have a company that provides commercial-grade support.
Michel also talks about scaling being a factor:
As a Prototype-based application grows, complexity of the underlying JavaScript explodes,
and the cost to add a feature skyrockets. A Backbase-powered application, on the other
hand, can grow in features and scale to handle hundreds of thousands of users while
remaining easy to maintain and extend.

Community licensing

Enterprise Ajax for Java is a commercial product, but open source projects can still take advantage of it. In fact, several have already done so. Backbase's community license allows developers to integrate the framework into open source projects for free. Jep describes the license:

With the community license you can use all Backbase server software for free on up
to 2 server-CPUs per company. Open source projects can include the Backbase software
free of charge, as long as they include a summary of the community license in the
README file or the release notes.

What's coming next?

One of the major new additions to Enterprise Ajax will be Visual Ajax Builder, an Eclipse-based visual editor. Sign up to receive a beta release once it becomes available.

Performance is another area that is constantly being improved. Backbase hopes to eliminate the difference in page load time between static HTML pages and dynamic AJAX pages in a future release.

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