Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Popularity of Java + Flex

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that I am hearing increasing discussion from colleagues and other Java (SE and EE) developers regarding use of Flex for the public-facing portion of their Java-based applications. Many of them are discovering what I have discovered and what Bruce Eckel discovered and wrote about in Hybridizing Java -- Flex as the front-end technology and Java EE as the back-end technology makes an impressive combination of technologies that benefit the developer and the end user.

As I mentioned in that same blog entry, there still seems to be a lot of resistance against Flex (or more specifically against Flash) that prevents many Java developers from even considering use of Flex or learning more about it. That's a shame and it's their loss because there many are situations where Flex and Java EE are the perfect complements of one another. In this blog entry, I'll demonstrate why I believe that Flex is becoming more popular in the Java development community.

Vendors Associated with Java Supporting Flex

Whether customers drive vendors or vendors drive customers, the result is the same -- vendor support for a tool or technology generally drives use of that technology or tool, but it can also be a sign of increasing customer use of that technology or tool. Some of the biggest vendor names in the Java community (particularly the Java EE application server community) have already shown significant interest in Flex.

Oracle Corporation and BEA have shown particular interest in Flex as shown in the following links. Oracle uses Flex in its Metalink tool and in its BI Publisher. BEA has started supporting a Flex plugin for its BEA Workshop Studio IDE.

Oracle Adopts Flex

James Ward's 7-Part "Oracle Chooses Flex"

What's With Oracle and Flex?

Using BEA Workshop Studio and Java to Create Flex-based RIAs

Flex Messaging with BEA Workshop Studio

BEA, Adobe Flex Their Muscles in Pushing Toward RIAs on the Enterprise Desktop

IBM DeveloperWorks: Develop Web Services Clients with Macromedia Flex

Flex Hangs with the Cool Crowd

Another sign of the rapidly growing interest in Flex for Java and other software developers is the set of popular toolkits and frameworks that people are using Flex with. For example, I spoke with some individuals at RMOUG Training Days 2008 who are using Flex with Ruby on Rails. They are not alone. Also, I know of people who are using Flex with the Spring Framework. Ruby on Rails and Spring are two of the "coolest kids" right now and Flex is hanging out with them. Links related to these combinations are shown next.

Flex for Ruby Developers

Book on Flex and Rails: Flexible Rails

Using Flex with Spring

Flex + Java Blogs, Articles, and Books

The increasing number of blogs (including mine!) and articles on using Flex with Java provide more evidence of the increased use of Flex and Java. There is even a book (Rich Internet Applications with Adobe Flex & Java) on using Flex with Java. Adobe's Developer Center has a section Flex and Java devoted to articles and other information on using Flex with Java. James Ward and Yakov Fain have written extensively about Java and Flex. The article Integrating Macromedia Flex with Java was published in late 2004 when it was still Macromedia Flex (rather than Adobe Flex) and it was J2EE rather than Java EE. However, while this was covered back then, the open sourcing of Flex, the availability of the Flex SDK for no license fee, and Eckel's account have led to increased interest in using Flex with Java EE.

The Jury is Still Out

The blog entry 1 in every 10 Java Developer is Learning Flex? is interesting (especially the feedback comments). While my anecdotal experience is that nowhere near one in ten of the Java developers I know is currently learning Flex, it would not surprise me if that comes to pass in the near future. What I find even more interesting is that of my close associates who are Java developers and who have spent any significant time trying Flex out, 100% of them have come away impressed. In fact, two of them (Michael Martin and Bill Jackson) are the co-authors of the presentation (Add Some Flash to Your Oracle DB Applications: Flex and OpenLaszlo) that I will be giving as part of the IOUG Forum at Collaborate08.

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