Click here to close now.


Linux Containers Authors: Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez, AppDynamics Blog, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: IoT User Interface, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, Adobe Flex

IoT User Interface: Article

Book Review: Advanced AJAX by Shawn M. Lauriat

"Advanced AJAX: Architecture and Best Practices" (Prentice Hall, 2008, 360p)

Brian Dillard's "Agile AJAX" Blog

Because AJAX moves so much application logic from the server to the client, it forces many developers to master a wider range of web technologies than ever before. To work effectively on AJAX projects, front-end developers have to concern themselves with database performance, business logic and other server-side concerns. Back-end and middleware developers, meanwhile, have to make friends with XHTML, CSS, JavaScript and a wide range of browsers.

Sure, it's possible to develop AJAX apps in a siloed team environment. But it's not the easiest way, and it rarely provides the strongest results.

Shawn M. Lauriat's "Advanced Ajax: Architecture and Best Practices" (Prentice Hall, 2008, 360p) bridges the gap between developers with exclusive client- or server-side skills. By exploring tools, technologies and best practices for every layer of the AJAX programming model, this solid new programming manual promises to plug the holes in any developer's resume. Lauriat's tops-to-tails approach offers something for almost any developer, but it also guarantees most readers will find some sections remedial. As this review will demonstrate, that's not necessarily a liability.

The book's first four chapters focus almost exclusively on the client-side technologies that are my own personal speciality. Lauriat's announces his goals early, shortly after pointing out the introductory nature of many existing AJAX books and tutorials:

"This book, instead, looks at using Ajax to create rich, browser-based interfaces for enterprise-level web applications, taking into account the flexibility, reusability, scalability, and maintainability necessary for such an undertaking. Ajax does not exist in this book as the latest and greatest acronym to hit web development. It instead exists as a tool like any other - extremely useful in some instances and totally wrong in others."

This focus on AJAX as a means rather than an end continues in the author's examination of user-focused application design:

"Ajax-based functionality fits best where it makes a given task easier for the user, rather than just replicating functionality easily achieved by simpler, faster-developed means. Using half a dozen JavaScript files, numerous CSS files, and several Ajax calls just to render a company home page uses a lot of time and memory for very little benefit to the user."

Having established his mission statement, Lauriat dives right into the specific technologies and approaches that client-side Ajax demands. He makes the case for semantic markup, web standards, progressive enhancement and accessibility in a way that should compute for server-side developers who may be encountering these concepts in depth for the first time. Advanced AJAX doesn't tackle these concepts to the level that, say, Jeffrey Zeldman would, but Lauriat doesn't scrimp on the real-world details. He provides compelling examples of the way high-contrast design, resizable page layouts, easily targeted controls and even the draft ARIA spec can enhance accessibility and usability for everyone, not just disabled users.

Once he's covered the basics of how to use client-side technologies appropriately, the author examines the specifics of client-side architecture. He explains JavaScript's object model and prototype-based inheritance with the appropriate level of detail for programmers better versed in Java or other server-side languages. Extensive code examples eschew jQuery and other AJAX frameworks, allowing readers to understand the nuts and bolts of cross-browser JavaScript development. Here, again, Lauriat displays a knack for providing neither too little nor too much detail. He discusses design patterns and strategies for abstraction just like he discusses Ajax itself: as tools rather than mandates. Readers with previous exposure to MVC architecture and event-driven programming should gain a better understanding of those techniques. Novices, meanwhile, should learn enough to understand the code samples and perhaps find their curiosity piqued for further study.

Having covered client-side technologies and architecture, Lauriat finally turns to development and debugging tools. Validators, browser consoles and plug-ins, profiles and unit-testing frameworks all get their due. Here, as elsewhere, Lauriat delves into the nitty-gritty of developing applications for IE, Safari, Firefox and Opera. He suggests tools and techniques for each browser environment without getting into political asides. As with the earlier chapters, I came away with a more complete, holistic understanding of topics in which I already considered myself well-versed.

Taken as a whole, the client-focused chapters of Advanced AJAX are worth skimming even for senior client-side developers. For programmers just getting acquainted with the UI layer, these chapters provide an extremely concise, yet thorough treatment of a huge number of important topics. I'm extremely impressed with Lauriat's book, and I haven't even gotten to the sections that will cover the most new ground for me personally.

The book's remaining chapters deal with everything from security and database optimization to server-side architecture and game development.

The server-side portion of Advanced AJAX uses PHP code to illustrate its many and varied lessons about AJAX architecture. It's not that I have anything against the popular web-development framework and scripting language. It's just that, after spending my career in the ASP Classic and JSP trenches and slowly ramping up on Rails in the last year, I'm not the ideal target audience for these code samples. Adding "PHP" to the title of the book might have limited its potential audience, but it also would have been more accurate.

That said, there's a lot of value here for adherents of any server-side framework. Lauriat discusses each topic from a general perspective before diving into the code. The technical approach to a given problem would obviously differ by framework, but the high-level approach wouldn't. If you don't mind skimming past the content that doesn't apply to you, Lauriat's advice about developing stable, scalable, accessible and secure AJAX applications transcends framework allegiance.

Chapter 5, "Performance Optimization," delves into database performance, caching, profiling and debugging. Chapter 6, "Scalable, Maintainable Ajax," covers everything from modular architecture to the concatenation of CSS and JavaScript files for faster deployment to the client. Lauriat covers the basics of MVC development in Chapter 7, "Server-Side Application Architecture." Security gets its due in Chapter 8, "Keeping a Web Application Secure." These chapters will make quick reading for anyone not interested in the lengthy PHP code samples, but the general principles are solid and worth taking to heart.

The book's final few chapters prove the most compelling for a general web-development audience. Lauriat devotes an entire chapter to documentation, coding standards, programming guides and style guides - including a look at JSDoc, the open-source, automated JavaScript documentation tool. But it's Chapter 10, "Game Development," that brings everything together. Lauriat uses PHP and cutting-edge client-side code (via the HTML 5 canvas element) to build Universe Conflict, an AJAX implementation of the venerable Space War! shooter game. Given that most example applications tend toward e-commerce or CRUD admin interfaces, it's refreshing to see Ajax employed for something frivolous and fun. That said, Lauriat convincingly demonstrates that games require the same architectural and security principles as any other application. The author closes with some final, high-level conclusions in Chapter 11.

Overall, Advanced AJAX proved to be a worthwhile read despite my lack of PHP mojo. Of its 11 chapters, 5 1/2 are full of examples that could be applied to any development framework, while the other 5 1/2 are full of sage advice that requires translation for non-PHP platforms.

The publisher has made a sample chapter of the book available on its website.

Full disclosure: The author received a free promotional copy of this book for review.

More Stories By Brian J. Dillard

Brian J. Dillard joined Pathfinder Development in August 2007 as RIA Evangelist. After 12 years of focusing on the view layer of large consumer web apps, his role at Pathfinder Associates is one of research, development and ongoing commentary. He prototypes new rich UI features; contributes to open-source and client projects; and otherwise helps build Pathfinder's competency in the AJAX world. Along with Pathfinder CTO Dietrich Kappe, Dillard contributes to the 'Agile Ajax' blog ( He is also the project lead on Really Simple History, a JavaScript library for AJAX bookmark and back-button management.

Comments (0)

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.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi's VP Business Development and Engineering, will explore the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context w...
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new data-driven world, marketplaces reign supreme while interoperability, APIs and applications deliver un...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Electric power utilities face relentless pressure on their financial performance, and reducing distribution grid losses is one of the last untapped opportunities to meet their business goals. Combining IoT-enabled sensors and cloud-based data analytics, utilities now are able to find, quantify and reduce losses faster – and with a smaller IT footprint. Solutions exist using Internet-enabled sensors deployed temporarily at strategic locations within the distribution grid to measure actual line loads.
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, will explore the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
The IoT market is on track to hit $7.1 trillion in 2020. The reality is that only a handful of companies are ready for this massive demand. There are a lot of barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can we deal with these issues and challenges? The paradigm has changed. Old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways will certainly lead you to the dead end. What is mandatory is an overarching and adaptive approach to effectively handle the rapid changes and exponential growth.
Today’s connected world is moving from devices towards things, what this means is that by using increasingly low cost sensors embedded in devices we can create many new use cases. These span across use cases in cities, vehicles, home, offices, factories, retail environments, worksites, health, logistics, and health. These use cases rely on ubiquitous connectivity and generate massive amounts of data at scale. These technologies enable new business opportunities, ways to optimize and automate, along with new ways to engage with users.
The IoT is upon us, but today’s databases, built on 30-year-old math, require multiple platforms to create a single solution. Data demands of the IoT require Big Data systems that can handle ingest, transactions and analytics concurrently adapting to varied situations as they occur, with speed at scale. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, chief strategy officer at Deep Information Sciences, will look differently at IoT data so enterprises can fully leverage their IoT potential. He’ll share tips on how to speed up business initiatives, harness Big Data and remain one step ahead by apply...
There will be 20 billion IoT devices connected to the Internet soon. What if we could control these devices with our voice, mind, or gestures? What if we could teach these devices how to talk to each other? What if these devices could learn how to interact with us (and each other) to make our lives better? What if Jarvis was real? How can I gain these super powers? In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, will show you!
As a company adopts a DevOps approach to software development, what are key things that both the Dev and Ops side of the business must keep in mind to ensure effective continuous delivery? In his session at DevOps Summit, Mark Hydar, Head of DevOps, Ericsson TV Platforms, will share best practices and provide helpful tips for Ops teams to adopt an open line of communication with the development side of the house to ensure success between the two sides.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, will keynote at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Developing software for the Internet of Things (IoT) comes with its own set of challenges. Security, privacy, and unified standards are a few key issues. In addition, each IoT product is comprised of at least three separate application components: the software embedded in the device, the backend big-data service, and the mobile application for the end user's controls. Each component is developed by a different team, using different technologies and practices, and deployed to a different stack/target - this makes the integration of these separate pipelines and the coordination of software upd...
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
WebRTC converts the entire network into a ubiquitous communications cloud thereby connecting anytime, anywhere through any point. In his session at WebRTC Summit,, Mark Castleman, EIR at Bell Labs and Head of Future X Labs, will discuss how the transformational nature of communications is achieved through the democratizing force of WebRTC. WebRTC is doing for voice what HTML did for web content.
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.