ClearNova has helped bridge the gap between AJAX benefits and J2EE complexity -- and added a significant RAD benefit to the process -- with the pending GA on Dec. 13 of its ThinkCAP JX development framework. While many applications are being AJAX-ified with a bevy of open source tools, frameworks, and home-grown customizations, there have been few options for bringing an automation level to the process that helps Visual Basic and PowerBuilder types enter the practice.
This is no panacea. Most developers tending toward AJAX are quite content with a limited balance of automation. They want a GUI and a framework, and then they will find and integrate the best tools and libraries for the job. These developers either want to do business logic their own way (sloppy as it may be) or to focus just on one or two tiers of development. I think that ClearNova, a privately held start-up in Atlanta, has recognized the need for a balance of the automation, but also the ability to go deep and allow for three-tier RAD and integration benefits with AJAX.
Balance among differing and sometimes highly complex development approaches is the key. The ThinkCAP JX release recognizes the RAD benefits of reducing handcrafting and scripting, while leaving the choice of tools and approaches to the business logic creation up to the individual developer.
I took a briefing on ThinkCAP JX this week, and my take is the timing in the market for this is spot-on. And the neutrality among existing open source tools and frameworks will hasten its popularity. ThinkCAP competes with Microsoft's Atlas in the .NET space, but in the arena of Java, open scripting, and browser and servlet engine openness, the AJAX momentum will surely benefit from a RAD-devoted framework that supports Struts, Hibernate, Eclipse, and is robust enough to AJAX-enable huge, transactional applications.
It would be nice if RAD AJAX development could also automate the support of PHP, SOA, and BPEL, but I'm told we'll have to wait for that. I wouldn't be surprised either to see ThinkCAP move fully to Eclipse rather than just support it. Based on the popularity of such new books as "AJAX in Action," the momentum around AJAX is not just another rung up the hype curve, but marks a true shift in developer thinking. The hunt will be on for the best, fastest way to bring AJAX benefits to the most applications.
AJAX is so popular that it could well give Java development itself much longer legs -- and expand its use beyond the current 3 million developers worldwide -- just as Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005 is entering the market and .NET is widely praised for its developer productivity benefits. I guess we could think of RAD frameworks such as ThinkCAP JX as creating what amounts to .Java. It may also push Microsoft to soon support more than Internet Explorer and to focus on the meta data regardless of the runtime. Naaaaah.