Tomorrow Curl is going to be releasing a report of a study they commissioned by Sonata Software that examines three of the major enterprise rich Internet application platforms; Curl, Flex, and Ajax. The report is interesting for a number of reasons and provides at least some feedback on performance and programming issues. In addition to talking about RIAs in the enterprise space (something I don't think we do enough of) it raises some interesting suggestions about what we should look for in our RIA technologies. (Gallery here)
For the study they got Sonata Systems, who is a partner, to build an application in ASP.NET Ajax, Curl, and Flex. They then took notes on the time it took to build the application and the feature sets that each technology offered. On the developer metrics side they measured things like lines of code and learning effort. Of the survey these numbers are the most subjective I think, but generally Curl and Flex matched up well with Curl having a slight edge in all categories.
The most interesting part of the survey to me were the performance metrics. Flex and Curl differ greatly in how they are implemented. Flex relies on a tiny runtime (Flash Player) and then loads the Framework up when you hit a Flex application so Flex applications tend to be bigger than alternatives. This is somewhat mitigated by the new caching feature in the player, but Curl took a different strategy. Their runtime is quite large (8 meg download, 16 meg installed) but their average application sizes are tiny. I don't think there is a right way here, but these are the kinds of discussions we should be having. In an enterprise environment maybe it makes more sense to pay the tax up front with a big runtime. Curl also has some performance metrics which I think are mostly accurate. Curl is being used extensively in Asia and has done a lot of work around large data sets, server efficiency and features that cater to an enterprise.
Enterprise rich Internet applications are very important. I think the benefits of service oriented architecture and software as a service, all things that the enterprise seem to be embracing, are only enhanced with a great user experience on the front end. RIAs provide that. Getting performance and security are going to be key to getting into that space, but we should also be asking about user experience and design I think. In this survey I thought the Flex application looked better and that the Ajax application could have been polished. Curl is releasing a new improved design for their components which I think will go along way. Enterprises can still benefit from great design.