Open Source FlurineFx Integrates Flex and .Net
While RIA technology is becoming mainstream application development solution, the needs for integrating RIA into the established technology platforms are rising. The open source library FluorineFx is an example of a project attempting to fill this need with .NET. InfoQ spoke with FluorineFx project manager Zoltan Csibi to learn the details.
Answering the question of what is FluorineFx, Zoltan summarized:
FluorineFx provides an implementation of Flex/Flash Remoting, remote shared object support, Flex Data Services and real-time messaging functionality for the .NET framework. The last two are partial implementations currently (meaning not all the features you can find in a Flex<->Adobe LiveCycle Enterprise Suite application are supported). It will also support compatibility with Adobe's BlazeDS.
The project started as an open source alternative to the old Macromedia .NET Remoting gateway (which was targeting .NET 1.1). Currently Adobe is not developing a .NET solution. FluorineFx supports NET 1.1, 2.0, 3.5 frameworks and Mono 1.2.4 (in Mono's case this means that testing were done only with this version).
Zoltan explained how this tools actually works:
The most feature complete part is the flash/flex remoting functionality, which is "just" another RPC using Adobe's AMF binary protocol (having as one of the advantage a very optimized binary data transfer between the client and the server). This part is also handling parameter marshalling (object serialization and deserialization) so ActionScript objects can be converted to .NET objects and vice versa. I always try to explain that it is a similar technology like Java RMI, .NET Remoting or other RPC, whichever is known for a developer. The "simplified view" is that the library will let you call from flash/flex your .NET server side code.
From Zoltan, InfoQ learned that FluorineFX was developed to allow Flex UI developers and .Net developers work together to build a integrated system. It's the reason that FluorineFx project also includes the features of Visual Studio integration, such as project templates (VS.NET2003, 2005, 2008) for quick startup, the service browser (testing the services without writing the client application) and the template based code generator. As Zoltan stated:
I would like to underline that in this area we are heading toward a more integrated solution, in the following weeks it is scheduled for release a Visual Studio package. For example (Flash/Flex) Remoting enabled application creation will be a "single-click" operation from Visual Studio (currently it is a 2 click operation :) as it is recommended to create a 2 project solution as described in the docs).
Talking about future, Zoltan mentioned there will be improvement over usability, better documentation, and :
Provide desktop service solutions for Adobe AIR applications (currently there is a Windows service that can be distributed with AIR applications and developers can deploy their .NET application to provide access to the Windows desktop.)
InfoQ will continue the coverage of new developments in the area of RIA integration tools like FluorineFx.