Nexaweb and JackBe Take Web 2 to the Enterprise

Last week's AjaxWorld Conference and Expo was a little bit on the small side, tucked into a corner of the Santa Clara, California, Convention Center, but it had the feel of an early JavaOne—which is to say, the place was positively quivering with possibility.

There were some great sessions and demos (IBM's QEDwiki drag-and-drop mashup tool was my personal fav), and Jesse James Garrett (He Who Did Coineth Ajax) was there to bless the event.

''What you have to remember about a show like AjaxWorld is that Ajax is a technology, not a market, not a business,'' says Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink. ''So a lot of the vendors are really just hobbyists. They don't have a business model. They're just doing cool things.''

But for my money—and Bloomberg's—the coolest things at this event were all about the concept of ''enterprise Web 2.0,'' as exemplified by Nexaweb Technologies and JackBe.

''Nexaweb has been focusing on enterprise applications, which really distinguishes them in the Web 2.0 crowd,'' Bloomberg says. ''This is a company that is solving real business problems, and they started off with that focus.''

Nexaweb, the Burlington, MA-based pioneer of enterprise Web 2.0 tech, debuted its Universal Client Framework (UCF) at the AjaxWorld show, and the CEO, Coach Wei was on hand to demo the product during a keynote presentation. (Yeah, his first name is really Coach.). The UCF is designed to allow developers to use Ajax technology to deploy composite business applications, including legacy code, via the Web.

During the demo, Wei compared the emergence of Web 2.0 to the transition from mainframes to client-server. ''There's a lot of confusion about Web 2.0,'' he told me later. ''People talk about MySpace and YouTube as the leading examples of Web 2.0. So people haven't been talking that much about what Web 2.0 means to the enterprise. We need to talk more about that. The true impact of Web 2.0 is more than the consumer Web site. It's really about a better way to build, deploy, and manage your whole enterprise's business applications.''

I like Nexaweb's definition of enterprise Web 2.0 as technology that ''embraces the convergence of Web 2.0 technologies, such as Ajax with legacy systems, Web services, and Service-Oriented Architectures (SOA), to enable organizations to deploy robust, reliable, and secure business applications over the Web.''

''We want to bring home to people that there's an enterprise-class capability here,'' added Nexaweb COO David McFarlane. ''Whether you call it Ajax, RIA, or Web 2.0, it's about delivering business-critical applications via the Web; it's about using these technologies to delivery real business results.''

The Nexaweb Framework is designed to give application developers the flexibility to use either Ajax or Java to deploy enterprise-class, composite business apps over the Web. What makes the UCF so cool is the way it abstracts the client-side interface. Developers don't need to write any code to be able to integration their applications and validate data. They can manage the entire environment from the originating data source over the Internet.

The UCF is part of Nexaweb Web 2.0 Platform, which provides the messaging and integration components to leverage legacy and service-enabled IT assets and build secure business applications for a browser.

JackBe, I'm ashamed to say, was not on my radar before the show. The Chevy Chase, MD-based company is a provider of software and services that combine Ajax and SOAs with optimized Web connectivity to deliver what the company calls Rich Enterprise Applications (REA).

JackBe unveiled its new Presto REA platform at the show. The company is billing the new platform as ''the industry’s most comprehensive solution for delivering enterprise AJAX applications based on SOA and Web services.'' The innovation here is that the Presto platform emphasizes SOA service governance—something that is simply not part of most Web 2.0 apps.

That governance piece is the key to the enterprise for this generation of Web-based apps, says Bloomberg. ZapThink views the emergence of Web 2.0 as a natural evolution of the SOA, in which loosely coupled software services provide the business processes. The SOA infrastructure is necessary to guarantee the loose coupling, without which, Bloomberg says, ''things like mashups are little more than toys from an enterprise perspective.''

JackBe, apparently, agrees. The book on the Presto platform is that it presents a secure, scalable, enterprise-grade architecture that provides for the governance of applications and services. The platform comprises a development tier, a client tier, an Ajax Service Bus (ASB), and a service tier consisting of a Service Gateway and Enterprise Mashup Server.

The ASB is an interesting variation on the ESB. ''The idea there is to support the rich Internet interface (client piece), the composite applications (server piece), and then they the connection,'' explains Bloomberg. ''So you can build mashups without worrying about http problems. The ASB eases the perspective of the developer, as well as the business user, who is now able to leverage this enterprise Web capability without having to worry about a lot of that nuts and bolts technical stuff.''

It's impossible to say, of course, how big an impact all this stuff will actually have on the enterprise, but it's interesting to note that Gartner Research has listed Web 2.0 among the top technologies in its latest hype cycle report. The ''hype cycle'' looks at new technologies that are gaining attention and predicts a pattern of hype/disillusionment/adoption for each one. Among the most influential models under that rubric were mashups, which Gartner expects to reach maturity—in other words, to transcend the hype—in less than two years.

Organized by SYS-CON Media, the AjaxWorld event ran from Oct 2-4 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I heard a rumor, which I was unable to verify before my deadline, that the event was successful enough that the show's organizers are planning to hold the next one at Jacob Javitz Center in New York.

Like I said, smells like JavaOne.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].