Welcome!

Linux Authors: Amy Lindberg, Carmen Gonzalez, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Lori MacVittie, ChandraShekar Dattatreya

Related Topics: AJAX & REA, SOA & WOA, Linux, Adobe Flex

AJAX & REA: 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 (http://blogs.pathf.com/agileajax). 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
There's Big Data, then there's really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, discussed how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
"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 SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.