Dreaming of KM services

With Version 9 of the Flash player, Adobe has introduced a new set of RIA development tools designed to allow development of SOCs.

Flex allows programmers to design beautiful, GUI-based interfaces the same way that Flash artists implement Flash applications, except that you don’t need to be a Flash artist to implement highly complex RIA systems. You do, however, need to be a programmer to develop those kinds of applications.

More importantly, Flex and Flash deliver an event-based applications programming model. Events are messages sent between applications telling them that they have services or data that are available to be consumed or shared. One of the things that makes Windows applications appear so tightly integrated is that they use an event programming model to allow seamless communications between applications. Like a Windows application, a Flex application can listen for events, create events or both. Think of an event as something like a mouse click or the receipt of an e-mail message or the press of a key on a keyboard.

Loose coupling

Flex allows the development of loosely coupled but tightly integrated Web applications. Loose coupling means that one program doesn’t have to reach deep inside another program to pull the bells and whistles made available by the application’s APIs or to use the data from that application. Rather, loosely coupled, event-based systems use application development techniques that produce and/or consume events that tell them how to share program data and functionality.

Adobe has now released a new set of tools called the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR, http://labs.adobe.com/tech
nologies/air), which consists of a set of Flex tools that allow Web applications to be developed that don’t need a Web browser. Although you can deliver Flex applications in the browser, you can also build Web services-based applications using AIR that don’t need a browser at all. AIR applications (formerly code named Apollo) run on any computer that has the latest Flash player and a small AIR runtime module, which is much smaller than a Web browser.

One of the AIR applications I downloaded called "yourminis" is reminiscent of a portal and shows a variety of Web services-based applications delivered as AIR apps. I have a number of mini application windows available on my desktop. They include a video clip player from Veoh, a weather bar, a clock and a toolbar. Not shown but available from the toolbar is an RSS
application that is set up to read a feed from some Myspace blogs. Figure 3 shows the yourminis AIR applications.

As you can see from this discussion, the case can certainly be made for delivering and integrating any application, including KM tools, within an SOA using Web services and RIA application development approaches. Having applications delivered as Web services makes it easier for developers and users alike to put them together within the Web browser or in other new ways such as through Adobe AIR and the Flash player.

Using tools such as Yahoo Pipes or Adobe Flex/AIR/Flash, users can build seamlessly integrated Web applications and data that deliver exactly the right mix of data and services the user requires. While you can’t convert all of your legacy systems to an SOA overnight, with appropriate planning, investment, effort and commitment, enterprises can rapidly begin to move from legacy n-tier and client/server architectures to much more flexible IT application and data environments based on SOA, Web services and RIAs.

It’s my dream to live in a world where business users determine exactly what mix of applications and data they need to perform their requisite business activities. Through SOA, both business users and their IT colleagues can forge an entirely new relationship of equals. With IT’s help, users can quickly and creatively mash together the applications and data items they require. The IT department works in a close partnership with its business unit counterparts to obtain the right applications, data and other required features and functions and delivers them as Web services using a SOA. In my dream, everybody wins,
and we all wake up from our night’s sleep feeling refreshed and ready to go. 

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