Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Developing for the Web: Merge Technology

Who does the heavy lifting in a Magic xpa application mashup? Is it HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript or the Magic xpa Application Platform? 

To better understand mashups in Magic xpa, we need to remember that Magic has supported merge applications in general and HTML merge specifically for nearly two decades. The basic idea is not new, but all the players have been improved.

As readers of this blog know, Magic xpa Application Platform’s hybrid deployment capability provides support for a wide range of deployment architectures. On the client, these include on-premise (client/server), desktop, Web (HTML5), browser-independent Web 2.0 rich Internet applications (RIA), cloud-enabled software-as-a-service (SaaS), and multiple mobile platforms, including Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Windows, and on the server, Microsoft Windows, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, Linux and IBM i. All of the various deployment modes are defined in the same application metadata and development project—meaning that application changes can be done once and are automatically propagated in any deployment mode.
Magic xpa’s Studio and ready-made business application engine utilize and interface with all major frameworks, such as Java and .NET, all major databases, and all communication standards and protocols. The question is, with so many options, how do we use Magic xpa to produce HTML5 mashups, or more accurately, HTML merge applications?
HTML Merge-based Applications
Magic xpa lets you design and develop an application for the Internet or Intranet by using: HTML and Java-based interfaces. Any HTML browser on any platform can access a Magic xpa application based on HTML Merge functionality. The Merge technology lets the developer create dynamic Web pages on the server side as a response to HTTP requests.

Using a set of tokens that are embedded in a regular HTML/XML file, the Magic xpa Application Platform Enterprise Server can merge any application data into the HTML or HTML5 file to produce a dynamic Web page. Magic xpa also uses form models to simplify the inheritance of GUI and other properties across multiple merged Web pages. You can also use any HTML5 editor to create your HTML5 template pages. Magic xpa

Every request for a dynamic Web page activates a corresponding batch program. This program can receive data from the request, such as submit form variables and cookies, process the application data according to the request information, and process the application logic to produce the merged Web page result.

From the Form editor, you can edit the HTML directly, either by zooming on the form from a Merge program, or by clicking on the HTML Editor in a browser-client program. By default, Notepad is the editor that appears.

However, you can choose which editor you want to use. Using an editor designed specifically for HTML, such as Front Page or Dreamweaver, can be useful.


Page Mode Execution
The interaction between the browser and the server is usually manifested in the retrieval of new pages as a result of a request submitted by the previous page.

Compliancy with All Browsers
The developer can choose the HTML/XML version for the application’s Web pages and any other use of client-side scripts and modules. The developer can decide on the level of Web browser compliance by choosing the HTML/XML version and additional modules.

Application Logic
The logic for merging application data into standard HTML files is server-side logic. Any client-side logic required for the application can be integrated with the Magic xpa-generated dynamic Web pages in the form of client-side scripts, such as JavaScript or VB script, and client-side modules, such as ActiveX controls and Java applets.

Controlling the Interaction
The fact that the application logic executed by Magic xpa is server-side only and that the developer determines the client-side logic, including the available hyperlinks, provides full control of the level of interaction between the client and the server.

Context Management
Any request handled by the Enterprise Server is handled independently with no correlation to previous requests submitted by the same application context for a given end user. This means that the application flow context management should be constructed and maintained by the developer.

The Merge technology is suited for lightweight interaction between the browser and the server. This technology is designed for applications that mainly receive whole pages on each request.

Network Throughput
The number of interactions between the server and the client is relatively low and the amount of information passed from the browser to the server in every interaction, for example an HTML form’s submitted information, is also low.

However, the result page for every request may be large as the page always returns not just the new processed data but also the entire HTML portions that define the interface and design.
Given the fact that the volume of information passed from the client to the server, i.e. the uploaded data, is usually low, excluding file transfers, there is no need for a large throughput from the client to the server, i.e. the upload rate does not need to be great.

You should try to make your pages as light as possible or make sure that the end user machines have sufficient download capabilities.

Client Machine Requirements
Unless the developer chooses to enhance the pages with various objects, such as ActiveX controls and Java applets, no special requirements are set for the client machine.

Unknown Users
The ability to create applications supported by all browsers lets you freely distribute a Merge-based application with no need to know the end-user machine specifications or count licenses.

Client-side Scripting Skills
If the Web application requires client-side logic, the developers need to acquire knowledge and skills in client-side scripting. Alternatively, the HTML can appear inside the Magic xpa client, such as a Magic mobile client.

So this leads us to the question we started with? Who does the heavy lifting? I think each technology plays its role in a mashup or merge application. Magic xpa does the heavy lifting in terms of the data layer and the logical layer. Familiar web technologies such as the browser, HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript can be used for client side interactions. 

Quite often, a pure Magic xpa rich client application can replace the need for HTML merge. Increasingly, we are seeing RIA apps on the Internet that allow a single developer to build the client-side and server-side apps without scripting approaches. Whenever this is possible, it is preferred and Magic xpa does all the heavy lifting, leaving HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript in the dust. 


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