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Ajax all the buzz at Eclipse conference

Attendees at EclipseCon 2006 are taking a cautious, yet enthusiastic approach toward Ajax.

Santa Clara - Ajax isn't the most prominent technology on display at EclipseCon 2006 this week but it's there sort of sneaking around the corners of the Santa Clara Convention Center like an unexpected guest at a party.

 Whether or not it's a good solution is yet to be seen.
Robert Buffone
DeveloperNexaweb Technologies, Inc.

It may seem odd for a conference drawing upwards of 1,500 mostly Java coders talking mostly about Web service applications to not be focusing more openly on the hottest technology idea of the past year, but the Eclipse Foundation is just getting to know Ajax as it mulls over proposals for bringing it into the framework.

One of those proposals comes from IBM, the Eclipse progenitor and major contributor of expertise and money. When John Kellerman, IBM strategy manager for Eclipse Initiatives, is asked if there is room for Ajax in Eclipse, he says, "The answer is yes, most definitively yes." But having worked with Eclipse since 1999 when it was just a gleam in Big Blue's eye, he explains that the Ajax proposals now being considered are very new, dating back only to the first of this year.

The main IBM proposal is the Ajax Tools Framework, which Kellerman said has drawn interest from other vendors including BEA Systems Inc. and Oracle Corp.

"The idea is to present a set of extensible framework tools to allow you to build Ajax applications in Eclipse," Kellerman said. "That project was created in the past month."

So Ajax fans will have to be patient while the proposed Ajax Tools Framework and other initiatives work their way through the Eclipse process.

BEA another big contributor of expertise and money, is equally enthusiastic about Ajax, says Pieter Humphrey, one of the company's chief advocates for a blended approach to open source and proprietary software. Yet he is also cautious about jumping into Ajax without considering security issues, how much weight it can put on a once-thin client and the fragility of JavaScript, which may be more prone to performance and reliability problems than advocates are willing to acknowledge.

Among the attendees and speakers at EclipseCon there are ambiguous feelings about Ajax.

On the exhibition floor, only Innoopract Informationssysteme Gmbh is openly promoting its "Rich Ajax Platform" (RAP). Innopract announced this week a proposal to put RAP into the Eclipse process.

Others were enthusiastic but more cautious.

For more information

XForms meets Ajax: Can they get along?

Learn more about Eclipse Web Tools Platform 1.0

In his presentation on "Rich Client vs. Rich Internet Apps," Robert Buffone, a developer at Nexaweb Technologies, Inc., talked about the killer apps that are being built on Ajax. But he also argued the Ajax is just a more marketing savvy name for DHTML. Dynamic HTML also is technology to use JavaScript along with Cascading Style Sheets to produce some of the same desktop drag-and-drop look and feel for Web pages that is the Ajax claim to fame. But DHTML was a less than dynamic name,and Buffone argued that renaming it Ajax helped create the current buzz.

"Whether or not it's a good solution is yet to be seen," he told his audience.

Other EclipseCon attendees were heard to muse that Ajax may be a "transitional technology."

Considering that Ajax technology is not standards-based, a slow deliberate movement through Eclipse seems likely.

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