Welcome!

Machine Learning Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Kevin Jackson, Progress Blog, Jason Bloomberg

Related Topics: Machine Learning

Machine Learning : Article

The Grand Convergence: Web + RIA + Widgets + Client/Server

Four main desktop client options are beginning to converge into a single form: the Fit Client

For the past ten years application developers have been stuck with only two desktop client choices. Traditionally, they can choose either a very thin Web-client technology implemented in HTML and CSS, or a very heavyweight thick client experience implemented using traditional client/server (C/S) technologies (e.g. Java Swing, MFC). It wasn’t until the introduction of RIA technologies (e.g. AJAX, Adobe Flex, Curl, and Silverlight) and widget engines (e.g. Yahoo! Widgets and Google Gadgets) that we were given more options.

Now these four desktop client options are beginning to converge into a single form, the Fit Client. (See Figure 1 below)



Fig 1: The Grand Convergence

Each of the options that preceded the Fit Client have their own benefits and are well suited for specific scenarios - the Fit Client represents the best of all these technologies.

#1: The Web for Reach

The Web client, which uses HTML and CSS, has been the most popular client desktop option in the history of computing.  Never has any desktop client solution been implemented by so many applications and used by so many people (billions of people).  The advantage of the Web client is “Reach.”

Reach, in this context, is a measure of how many people can access the client. The Web has won this race hands down and will probably be the reigning Reach champion for years to come, because Web clients use only HTML and CSS – two technologies that are well understood and implemented consistently across web browsers and operating systems. The Web has became the primary way in which people consume content and interact with applications on the desktop.
Web technologies also benefit from a centralized distribution model – every time you access a web application you get the latest version of that application. Web applications are always downloaded to your computer when needed and can be centrally managed at the web server.  Centralized management contributes greatly to Web Reach, because it allows updates and patches to be applied without having to deal with the idiosyncrasies of millions of different client machines.

#2: Client/Server for Richness

While the Web surpasses any other desktop client technology in terms of reach, it's the client/server platforms that own the desktop in terms of Richness.  Take a look at any application that requires extremely high fidelity for 2D and 3D graphics and you’ll find a thick client. For example, interactive on-line games – the ultimate litmus test for intensive client-side processing – such as World of Warcraft are implemented with client/server technologies. Although these games use the Internet, you have to have a thick client solution in order to meet the intensive processing needs.
Besides being able to handle intensive graphics, client/server technologies also rule in Richness because they can maintain massive amounts of data on the client. Unlike Web technologies, which are limited to about 4k (the size of a web cookie), client/server technologies are only limited by your hard drive capacity.  The ability to maintain massive amounts of data on the desktop give client/server technologies a real boost in terms of interactivity – most of the data is local requiring no network communications.
While Client/Server technologies excel in Richness they stumble pretty badly in terms of Reach.  Client/Server technologies require that you download fairly large applications before you can use them. For example, World of Warcraft requires six gigabytes of hard-drive space. While online interactive video games may represent an extreme, the fact is that most client/server applications are pretty large compared to other options.

#3: RIA Technologies - The Compromise

RIA technologies such as AJAX, Adobe Flex, Curl and others offer a compromise that attempts to balance the Reach of the Web with the Richness of client/server technology.  RIA applications, like web applications, are downloaded as needed and while not as portable as Web clients, they are supported on over 90% of desktops. 

So RIA technologies benefit from the same management and almost the same Reach as the Web, but they also introduce client-side processing. The ability to do more complex processing on the client isn’t nearly as powerful as client/server technologies, but it does allow for a much better interactive experience with GUI controls and local processing that cuts down on network requests.  RIA technologies are a compromise between Reach of the Web and Richness of client/server technologies. It’s this compromise that has made RIA technologies very popular.

#4: The Widget Engine - Precursor to the Fit Client

Widget Engines such as Yahoo! Widgets and Google Desktop are an interesting alternative to Web, client/server, and RIA technologies. The architecture of the Widget engine divides the client technology into two parts, the engine and the widgets. The widget engine is usually a pretty large download. For example, the Yahoo! Widget engine is about 40 megabytes and the Google Desktop widget engine is about 1 gigabyte.  However, once the widget engine is installed the widgets themselves are pretty lightweight – say .5 to 3 megabytes in size.
The widget engine is really a wonderful architecture that gives you the power of the desktop (via the widget engine) and the management of the Web (via widget downloads).  Widget engines can out-perform RIA solutions and they can store larger data sets.
The limitation of Widget engines is not in their architecture, it is that they have been designed for applications with fairly weak capabilities compared to client/server. Widgets tend to be single-purpose applications with limited access to the native operating system. That said, the widget architecture itself - the separation of the platform from the applications - is important. It makes it possible to create applications (widgets) that are portable across operating systems and are packaged for easy download and installation. They also provide – to varying degrees – a safe execution environment where widgets may be isolated from the rest of the operating system and managed by the widget engine.

The Grand Convergence: The Fit Client

The Fit Client, of which Adobe AIR is the best-known example, represents a convergence of the four earlier client models (i.e. Web, client/server, RIA, and Widgets). Fit Client technologies embody the best in all the previous desktop client platforms.  Like a Widget Engine the Fit Client separates much of the application’s infrastructure into a portable runtime environment and offers a clean packaging and installation model.  Fit Client applications can be lighter weight than client/server applications, yet more powerful and far richer than RIA clients.  In addition, Fit Client platforms offer more robust APIs and security models than do Widget Engines. Fit Client applications can be centrally managed, yet remain resident on the desktop. They can offer access to standard web content (e.g. HTML) without the need of a browser.
Fit Clients can leverage the processing power and disc space of the client machine, but they can also offer more restrictive and secure environments than client/server platforms.
As is the case with any technology, Fit Clients are not a panacea but they are advancement on previous technologies.  A great Fit Client platform such as Adobe AIR, Google Gears, or Curl offers enormous flexibility and power while also enabling centralized management and distribution. Fit Clients won’t be used for everything, but they will become the Internet platform of choice for many types of applications in the years to come.

This column appears exclusively at SYS-CON.com. Copyright © 2008 Richard Monson-Haefel.
(This copyright notice supersedes the one auto-generated at the foot of this page.)

More Stories By Richard Monson-Haefel

Richard Monson-Haefel, an award-winning author and technical analyst, owns Richard Monson-Haefel Consulting. Formerly he was VP of Developer Relations at Curl Inc. and before that a Senior Analyst at The Burton Group. He was the lead architect of OpenEJB, an open source EJB container used in Apache Geronimo, a member of the JCP Executive Committee, member of JCP EJB expert groups, and an industry analyst for Burton Group researching enterprise computing, open source, and Rich Internet Application (RIA) development.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
peterT 03/11/08 06:58:25 AM EDT

So Fit clients are taking over from fat clients? Do developers confirm this out there?

@CloudExpo Stories
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Sanjeev Sharma Joins June 5-7, 2018 @DevOpsSummit at @Cloud Expo New York Faculty. Sanjeev Sharma is an internationally known DevOps and Cloud Transformation thought leader, technology executive, and author. Sanjeev's industry experience includes tenures as CTO, Technical Sales leader, and Cloud Architect leader. As an IBM Distinguished Engineer, Sanjeev is recognized at the highest levels of IBM's core of technical leaders.
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
Mobile device usage has increased exponentially during the past several years, as consumers rely on handhelds for everything from news and weather to banking and purchases. What can we expect in the next few years? The way in which we interact with our devices will fundamentally change, as businesses leverage Artificial Intelligence. We already see this taking shape as businesses leverage AI for cost savings and customer responsiveness. This trend will continue, as AI is used for more sophistica...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Dumas, Calligo’s Vice President and G.M. of US operations, discussed the new Global Data Protection Regulation and how Calligo can help business stay compliant in digitally globalized world. Greg Dumas is Calligo's Vice President and G.M. of US operations. Calligo is an established service provider that provides an innovative platform for trusted cloud solutions. Calligo’s customers are typically most concerned about GDPR compliance, application p...
"I focus on what we are calling CAST Highlight, which is our SaaS application portfolio analysis tool. It is an extremely lightweight tool that can integrate with pretty much any build process right now," explained Andrew Siegmund, Application Migration Specialist for CAST, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
As many know, the first generation of Cloud Management Platform (CMP) solutions were designed for managing virtual infrastructure (IaaS) and traditional applications. But that's no longer enough to satisfy evolving and complex business requirements. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Scott Davis, Embotics CTO, explored how next-generation CMPs ensure organizations can manage cloud-native and microservice-based application architectures, while also facilitating agile DevOps methodology. He expla...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone inn...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
DevOps promotes continuous improvement through a culture of collaboration. But in real terms, how do you: Integrate activities across diverse teams and services? Make objective decisions with system-wide visibility? Use feedback loops to enable learning and improvement? With technology insights and real-world examples, in his general session at @DevOpsSummit, at 21st Cloud Expo, Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, explored how leading organizations use data-driven DevOps to close th...
Continuous Delivery makes it possible to exploit findings of cognitive psychology and neuroscience to increase the productivity and happiness of our teams. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Daniel Jones, CTO of EngineerBetter, will answer: How can we improve willpower and decrease technical debt? Is the present bias real? How can we turn it to our advantage? Can you increase a team’s effective IQ? How do DevOps & Product Teams increase empathy, and what impact does empath...
Most technology leaders, contemporary and from the hardware era, are reshaping their businesses to do software. They hope to capture value from emerging technologies such as IoT, SDN, and AI. Ultimately, irrespective of the vertical, it is about deriving value from independent software applications participating in an ecosystem as one comprehensive solution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kausik Sridhar, founder and CTO of Pulzze Systems, discussed how given the magnitude of today's application ...
There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectural patterns do not easily accommodate applications that respond to events in real time. Common solutions using message queues or HTTP long-polling quickly lead to resiliency, scalability and development velocity challenges. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ryland Degnan, a Senior Software Engineer on the Netflix Edge Platform team, will discuss how by leveraging a reactive stream-based protocol,...
Digital transformation is about embracing digital technologies into a company's culture to better connect with its customers, automate processes, create better tools, enter new markets, etc. Such a transformation requires continuous orchestration across teams and an environment based on open collaboration and daily experiments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Alex Casalboni, Technical (Cloud) Evangelist at Cloud Academy, explored and discussed the most urgent unsolved challenges to achieve f...
"Digital transformation - what we knew about it in the past has been redefined. Automation is going to play such a huge role in that because the culture, the technology, and the business operations are being shifted now," stated Brian Boeggeman, VP of Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
You know you need the cloud, but you're hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You're looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you're concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies. What do you do?