David Boloker, CTO for Emerging Internet Technology at IBM and one of the spearheads behind the OpenAjax Alliance, gave a presentation today at Real-World Ajax here in New York City summarizing the organization's accomplishments over the last few months. Ostensibly formed to ensure the Ajax market doesn't fragment into incompatible toolkits, standards, and approaches, the initiative seems to have matured considerably into a detailed strategy for making Ajax a capable new Web platform for online software.
Though two notable hold outs to OpenAjax still exist (Microsoft and Sun), the ranks of OpenAjax continues to swell, with original signatories including well-known industry notables such as IBM, Adobe, and Oracle. Recent additions to membership now include over a dozen new members including SAP, TIBCO, Backbase, and JackBe.
Formed to ensure "universal compatibility" between Ajax-compliant software and "any computer device, application, desktop or operating system", the alliance is also not a formal standards organization and relies purely on compliance with its members, at least so far.
I watched Boloker give the most detailed explanation yet of what OpenAjax is doing to actually move forward its high level goals. These include some actual deliverables including ATF, the freely available, Eclipse-friendly Ajax Toolkit Framework, which embraces Dojo and Zimbra, and provides a professional-level Ajax development infrastructure:
While ATF has been out for a while, it's just now becoming something that's capable of demonstrating some of the executable vision of the OpenAjax Alliance and Boloker's colleague demonstrated what's possible with ATF today for developing OpenAjax-compliant software.
Boloker also outlined some of the future goals for OpenAjax and they were essentially a laundry list of features you would expect any enterprise platform to have including internationalization, localization, security, and much more. The seriousness and scale of the effort shows that Ajax has grown from a simple pattern for development Web applications into an increasingly well-defined and industry supported platform model. Boloker also announced the new Web site for OpenAjax.
Unfortunately, though Boloker hinted that talks are seriously under way with Sun, it's involvement by key players, particularly Microsoft, that will help shape the real future of OpenAjax. Overall however, I was fairly impressed overall with the openness and devotion to making sure the resulting OpenAjax deliverables including guidelines, reference models, and actual development tools are easy to comply with by large and small Ajax vendors alike.
However, I do also sense the possible return of the heavyweight development burdens that helped bog down older enterprise software models and prevent them from flourishing in the industry the way Ajax has in the last year and a half. Fortunately, Ajax really does seem to be a grassroots phenomenon and I continue to talk to large organizations on a regularly basis that are rapidly taking their internal and external applications to an zero-footprint Ajax model to support SaaS and Web 2.0 software goals.
And while it's still getting harder to decide which Ajax application approach to take, things like OpenAjax, as long as they stay on the right path, could really help.
What do you think? Does Ajax really need an organization to make sure tools and approaches don't fragment?