Rich clients and Web services are rapidly becoming a match made in heaven -- and the shift is making the Web browser yesterday's news.
Browsers don't offer enterprises the functionality or performance needed to take full advantage of Web services, experts say.
Several small startups, including Nexaweb Technologies Inc., Altio, Curl Corp., JackBe and Laszlo Systems Inc., are ahead of the pack when it comes to developing rich clients -- and their technology is adding new dimension to the competition in the desktop application market.
Nexaweb tomorrow will release an upgrade to its development platform, which enables developers to build applications that consume and expose Web services.
Enhancements include a new visual development environment; support for server clustering; support for more clients, like Linux and Sun's Java Desktop System; enhanced graphing capabilities and internationalization.
"What many Web services scream out for is a rich client and the ability to connect those as an extended enterprise application," said Nexaweb chief executive Larry Geisel.
ZapThink senior analyst Ron Schmelzer predicts that the rich-client market will approach $1 billion in six years, as enterprises come to favor rich clients over browsers.
"Part of it is a mindset change, but a big part of it is that the applications have to evolve, be available and compelling to enterprises," Schmelzer said. "Many are used to using their browser for applications. Some are trying to engineer around the problem and say 'What if we give you another way to solve your problems.' "
Nexaweb 3.0 includes a server, a thin-client download and a development suite. The client is J2EE-based and can run natively in most browsers. The server can run as a servlet in any J2EE application server. Communication between the client and server uses XML and Web services.
"As companies desire richer interaction between their Web services-based applications and the users of those applications, rich-client solutions such as those by Nexaweb will continue to gain prominence in the enterprise," Schmelzer wrote in a recent report. "Users will increasingly demand the ability to present very large data sets to a dispersed audience without sacrificing the economics that Web applications or the rich user experience that traditional client-server applications provide."
New features include Nexaweb Studio, a design and development environment used in conjunction with an integrated development environment (IDE). It is integrated within the Eclipse IDE and is available as a plug-in for use with other IDEs.
Nexaweb 3.0 also includes greater scalability through clustering many instances of the Nexaweb Server. It supports more than 1,000 client sessions and hundreds of transactions per session. As needs grow, new servers can be added to scale.
Version 3.0 supports most browsers, including Mozilla and Safari, and many platforms, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SuSE Linux, Windows and most flavors of Unix. It also supports Sun's Java Desktop System.
The new version also runs on many application servers, including Sun Java Enterprise System Application Server, Apache Tomcat, BEA WebLogic, IBM WebSphere, Oracle 9i Application Server and JBoss.