Adobe Says Flex-Based Component Tools Coming, IBM's ILOG Upgrades Elixir Suite

Look for a third-party market of component tools that allow developers to build business applications based on Adobe's Flex rich client programming platform to emerge this year, according to a company official.

While there are a number of open source Flex component tools, the only complete suite of commercial components is from ILOG, which IBM acquired in January for $340 million. Adobe resells the ILOG Elixir tools, which the company upgraded last week. At the same time, Adobe is also looking to draw other component providers to offer tools for its Flex environment.

"There's a whole ecosystem around components growing up this year around Flex," said David Gruber, group product manager in Adobe's platform business unit. Gruber would not say if Adobe will resell other vendors' components, as well.

Gruber also declined to identify the other vendors planning to release suites, but did say that a few should be coming to market in the following months and there should be at least five by the end of this year. "These are companies in the component business," Gruber said.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based ILOG offers a portfolio of visual tools for .NET, Java and C++ developers. When ILOG decided to jump into the Flex arena, it did not have the reach to sell a component library to this new segment on its own, said Erwan Paccard, ILOG's visualization product manager. "We said we'll build it if you sell it," Paccard said.

Eager to jumpstart the market for Flex components, Adobe last year agreed to resell ILOG's Elixir offering, before either company knew ILOG would become part of IBM. ILOG said it drew $181 million in revenues last year.

Adobe only occasionally resells third-party tools, according to Gruber, and while ILOG is the first for Flex, the company has done the same with unrelated products. "For the most part, we sell our own products. But where it makes sense, we help other companies, as well," he said. "These guys have the premier-level data visualization for Flex out right now."

Paccard said Elixir 2.0, priced at $799 per developer, adds four new capabilities for Flex developers: pivot charts, calendaring, heat maps and Gantt (project management) charts.

Based on the iCal standard, the calendaring charts were designed for developers who want to provide a graphical front end to scheduling functionality. The pivot charts function adds OLAP capability much like that in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets but within shared Flex-based environments. The Gantt task charts let project managers schedule tasks that may have interdependencies associated with them, and the heat maps allow developers to build more detailed linkages to geographical data. The company provided more details on its blog.

Unlike the prior release, the upgraded version requires developers to work with Adobe's Flex Builder Pro, its Eclipse-based IDE, though most were already doing so, according to Paccard.

"Instead of reinventing the wheel, we are leveraging what they've done," he said. "For our pivot charts, we use some of the classes they use in the charting framework, so we are able to deliver more features. What that means for the end users is it really looks like Adobe Flex components. The learning curve is very short. For instance, by having a few tags, they can migrate from 2-D charts to 3-D charts, it is really straightforward."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of and news editor of Visual Studio Magazine.