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RIA & Ajax: Article

Managing the Performance of Complex Web 2.0 Applications

From Web 1.0 to Web 2.0

Web 1.0 - Where Experts Add Value
In its relatively short lifetime, the World Wide Web has had a dramatic impact on the way information is presented and shared. Before the Internet and the web were available, "big media" companies invested heavily in expensive research, writing, editorial, printing, post-production, and broadcasting infrastructure to create compelling and thoughtful media assets for consumers.

When these large media conglomerates realized that they had a new and growing audience online, they became early adopters of this new medium. Most simply provided access to the online versions of articles and media that were essentially reprints of their existing static assets. This model meant that relatively few people were responsible for creating and updating static content and that content was not refreshed very often - making management of the applications a relatively easy task.

Web 2.0 - Where Participants Add Value
More recently, advances in datacenter technologies such as J2EE or .NET applications, dynamically generated content, and database connectivity have provided the foundation for more sophisticated applications such as Weblogs ("blogs") or Wikis. By leveraging these new technologies, the web has become a dynamic platform where users and agents in the system work together to share ideas and add value across a myriad of interests - from the most general, to the tiniest tip of the very long tail. This more participatory model has been dubbed "Web 2.0," even though it brings with it more than twice the value of traditional "Web 1.0" applications.

Because of their interactive nature, the hosting infrastructure for Web 2.0 applications has dramatically increased in complexity. In addition to a myriad of load-balancing devices, web servers, application stacks, and databases involved in serving content, these applications are frequently asked to interface with other Web sites to reuse existing content or functionality via Web services, or to incorporate single sign-on capabilities (such as OpenID). In addition, new client-side RIAs (Rich Internet Applications created using AJAX, JavaFX, Flash, or Silverlight), which may be implemented to improve the usability and usefulness of the data being presented, also add another layer of complexity to the management and successful delivery of the web application.

The collaborative nature of these applications does not stop with only information being created and exchanged. Take the example of any of the several social networking sites that have a published API available. Users no longer have to wait for the website to create compelling and interesting applications to facilitate user-to-user interaction - they are given the tools to do it themselves. The dynamic nature of the applications and the ability of users to add these applications or widgets on top of a common platform, without the ability for IT to perform any QA or regression testing, opens the door to a potential problem in delivery or experience of an application. How can you be sure that the application will scale the way it needs to? For that matter, how can you ensure that each instance individually will perform as expected on any of the various flavors of web browsers or RIA containers that are in use?

More Stories By Hon Wong

Hon has served as CEO of Symphoniq Corporation since its inception. Prior to joining Symphoniq, Hon co-founded NetIQ, where he served on the board of directors until 2003. Hon has also co-founded and served on the board of several other companies, including Centrify, Ecosystems (acquired by Compuware), Digital Market (acquired by Oracle) and a number of other technology companies. Hon is also a General Partner of Wongfratris Investment Company, a venture investment firm. Hon holds dual BS in electrical engineering and industrial engineering from Northwestern University and a MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

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