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Nobody Starts from Scratch on Rich Internet Apps

Every new piece of software has to be considered in light of existing software, even if the latter is ultimately replaced or ignored. This is also true of companies that make software development products, but what about new companies?... They don't have any legacy software of their own to support, but if they want to sell into enterprise IT shops, they need to be compatible with lots of other software...
Companies that have been around a while have legacy software. Every new piece of software has to be considered in light of existing software, even if the latter is ultimately replaced or ignored. This is also true of companies that make software development products; all of the big ones have been around a while and have their own legacy software.

But what about new companies; can they really start from scratch? Specifically I'm thinking about a company like Nexaweb Technologies, whose flagship product, Nexaweb Enterprise Web 2.0 Suite, I recently reviewed for Intelligent Enterprise. Here's a company formed in 2000 that has bitten off a very large chunk of enterprise software development turf. They aim to make Web 2.0 and Rich Internet Applications (RIA) fit for the enterprise.Nexaweb is not alone, of course. Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Adobe, Oracle, BEA (oops, Oracle) are energetically exploiting these trends. Many other smaller and startup companies are also in the hunt, but not many of them are after such a large chunk of enterprise terrain. To be successful, I think Nexaweb has an advantage in not having a lot of software baggage. It has the luxury of picking and choosing among the emerging technologies to craft software that fits their analysis of the market. They are not constrained to satisfy existing clients or remain compatible with outmoded software.

But wait a minute, is that really true? They don't have any legacy software of their own to support, but if they want to sell into enterprise IT shops, they need to be compatible with lots of other software. For instance, Nexaweb is essentially a Java product; it uses the Java Virtual Machine on the client and the server part runs in J2EE application servers. The path of least resistance, the legacy if you will, is to concentrate on compatibility with other Java software. But trends in RIA and Web 2.0 say otherwise; consider, for example, the mounting popularity of Ajax. Nexaweb decided its server platform and IDE (Nexaweb Studio) would fully support either Java or Ajax programming, but there were hoops to jump through to achieve that. In this case, Nexaweb decided to introduce a declarative "container" language, called XAL (eXtensible Application Language or NXML (Nexaweb XML), that creates the user interface and embeds the Java, Ajax (or whatever code) within that framework. It's an approach that works (see also Adobe Flex), but it means that Java or Ajax programmers need to learn the ways of XAL - more work, less generic.

So, Nexaweb had to make choices about what new software technologies are appropriate for the enterprise. They had to make their software capable of playing nice with other kinds of software. They had to consider problems and choices very similar to companies with legacy software. Nobody gets a blank slate for developing enterprise-level softwareEvery new piece of software has to be considered in light of existing software, even if the latter is ultimately replaced or ignored. This is also true of companies that make software development products, but what about new companies?... They don't have any legacy software of their own to support, but if they want to sell into enterprise IT shops, they need to be compatible with lots of other software...

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing