At Caplin, a number of our customers use our Java client API, for applications and for browser applets. Recently some customers have also used our .Net client API.
Despite the buzz around Ajax in many communities, it is still a barrier for some large corporations and we come up against people wanting to write Trading front-ends in Flex. We have both won and lost these battles, and time may tell who was right, but most likely there will not be a clear cut conclusion.
Flex can give you a fairly instant feel-good factor. It has an Eclipse based GUI builder that makes you think you have achieved something very quickly. Adding any real world functionality to a dumb GUI obviously takes some time though, but often the technology decision has been made by then.
Adobe also provides Comet like abilities through their LiveCycle Data Services product. This can be integrated with the back-end using JMS; again the Developer familiarity bell rings here, but that does not necessarily make it the right tool for the job. It is generic, which can be advantageous, but you will probably be reinventing the wheel.
So why do people choose Flex? Being an Ajax focused Comet site I’d expect a slightly biased view here, but I am interested in what it is people like about Flex. Are there things the Ajax community needs to do to combat some of things mentioned here?
Then we get to Silverlight. Unfortunately Microsoft has not made it as easy for software vendors to create Silverlight APIs from a standalone .Net API as you would hope. I believe Lightstreamer has had a .Net client API for some time, but have only just released a beta of a Silverlight API. I am assuming this was not because the Silverlight API is totally different, but due to the hurdles of the technology.
Silverlight and Flex are both moving targets to a certain extent. Some aspects of Flex require the latest Flash plug-ins that do not have the vast install base of the previous versions. Silverlight 3 will be released sometime this year, and appears to add a lot of new functionality.
How do people in this space view Silverlight? At Caplin, we have not yet had to face off against someone wanting to develop their own Silverlight trading application, but I can see this happening in the not too distant future. I imagine that Silverlight has many of the advantages of Flex, and possibly many more, but will it catch on and will it pose a threat to Ajax?
Flex and Silverlight both provide advantages over Ajax development, or at least perceived advantages. The wealth of Ajax technology out there is both an advantage and a disadvantage, for some the simplicity of going with the single vendor solution is the easy choice. In a large organisation the old adage ‘Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM’ might apply here, I think some development teams are choosing the safe route, which in a lot of cases might not be the best option.
When the choice to build something from scratch is Flex/Silverlight versus Ajax, I can understand why some would go with Flex or Silverlight. However, when the choice is building it yourself with Flex/Silverlight versus using a more complete existing Ajax solution the balance is tipped firmly towards Ajax. This does not just apply to Caplin Trader—there are other Ajax based solutions in all kinds of sectors that offer far more than a programming library.