Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Amit Gupta

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

Droplets by Droplets Inc.

Droplets by Droplets Inc.

Tired of using that Web access e-mail client? Going crazy filling out those expense reports using a clunky Web-based system? Missing the superior and responsive desktop application? You're not alone! According to the usability research firm Nielsen Norman Group, "Billions of dollars are wasted yearly in lost productivity as people wait for Web pages to perform duties that could be better handled by a 1984 Macintosh-style GUI application."

The promise of Web architecture (no deployment, large scalability, no firewall opening) is hard to refuse. Yet the wide deployment of HTML-based applications has left end users craving for a responsive and productive user interface. There have been several efforts to combine both the Web and the rich UI (DHTML/ActiveX/Java applets). Unfortunately, these add more pain rather than soothe.

The Droplets application platform, with the User Interface Server and the SDK, enables developers to create software that combines the convenient, instant deployment benefits of the Web with the high usability and rich UI of traditional clients. Droplets GUIs can be dragged directly off of Web pages and onto the desktop, acting as double-clickable icons to launch Web-based apps that look and feel like Windows applications. As there is zero application code on the client machine, Droplets is less prone to security breaches.

Droplets Overview
Droplets has a downloadable SDK from the Droplets Web site developers zone (www.droplets.com/developer). There is an initial evaluation license and plenty of starter materials (tutorials, samples, documentation) to get started. The first time I installed Droplets and tried it out, I could get to a quick sample of mine in less than two hours. Command-line and Notepad-based development is possible. Droplets also has a plug-in for JBuilder and Eclipse. Easy integration with webMethods' Glue makes it possible to hook up with back-end Web services.

The key components of Droplets are as follows.

Droplets UI Server
The Droplets UI Server hosts application logic, instructs the client about GUI rendering, manages client connections, and provides GUI updates in response to both user-initiated and server-side events. The UI Server can also integrate with application servers and back-end components like XML–Web services or EJB/CORBA.

Droplets Client
The client is a lightweight engine transparent to the end user that renders all Droplets applications at the client computer. The Droplets client does require a small, one-time download (~1MB). Thereafter, no application downloads are required and all upgrades are automatic on application startup. The client has two responsibilities: the presentation of the GUI and the reporting of user events to the UI Server. To accomplish this, a small (1–2KB) text file called a "DRP" is used. It holds basic information like the server URL, the server port, and the name of the Droplet to present. The Droplets client also has the ability to support a "Dripline", a desktop alert that allows the UI server to contact a client whenever the state of a given Droplet has changed. This allows the client to update the Droplet's desktop icon, e.g., alerting the user of server events like a change in a stock price or an inventory level dipping below a threshold.

 

Communication Layer Enables Superior Performance
The Droplets client and server communicates via an optimized communications layer running over TCP/IP sockets. The UI Server instructs the client as to the layout of the applications at start-up, and transmits both server-side and user-initiated updates. Droplets transmit only events and individual field updates, whereas an HTML-based application reloads the entire page for each user event. This makes a Droplets application faster and requires less bandwidth than an equivalent Web application.

Droplets SDK
The Droplets Software Development Kit (SDK) is a remote GUI toolkit that allows development using a single standard language. Java and C++ are the current choices. OO-COBOL, C#, and VB should be available in early 2004. The API library is based on Java's AWT package and also incorporates components and interfaces from the Swing package. The Droplets platform provides several infrastructural components such as networking, encryption support, an authentication mechanism, and monitoring. Droplets' server-based architecture allows customization of the look and feel of application instances via "skins," allowing enterprises to blend the Droplet into the look of their other online content.

 

A Real-Life Scenario
The following is an example of a real-life scenario: a large chemical company uses a standardized set of key business performance measures. The company's executives use the key measures that span financial, economic, and customer satisfaction data to make critical business decisions. A business intelligence system from COGNOS was used to gain visibility into a number of different business units using various IT systems. There are over 200 business units, and each unit is measured by around 50 measures. This data is currently loaded every month through a complex ETL procedure, then Excel and paper reports are prepared for the management. These reports are available every 30 days and are largely static in nature. However, the existing Web-based GUI was too slow, cumbersome, and user-unfriendly. It became so unwieldy that the management staff preferred paper reports.

MEC Technologies was hired to build a management dashboard to improve the ease of accessing and reporting data for the management staff. While enriching the end-user experience was critical, it was also important to use industry-standard XML Web services to integrate data from BI Systems, back-end DB, and other third-party data sources. Considering the user base, a highly polished and easy-to-use application was desirable.

Using the Droplets Java API, an executive management dashboard was developed in less than two months. Since the entire application was server-based, hooking up with back-end Web services was quite simple. Initially, both Apache Axis and webMethods Glue were used to create Web services proxies and access the measures data. Finally, webMethods Glue was chosen. The user community used NTLM security to get authenticated and then access a URL within the intranet. That URL would launch the Droplets application. Most users remained with the browser-based UI. However, a few advanced users preferred to use the Droplets client. A controlled version was beta tested by the financial analysts community. Once they were satisfied, the application was launched in production for the executive management staff.

Experience Summary
The overall experience of developing with Droplets and using it was quite encouraging. There were very few platform- and Droplets (SDK)- related roadblocks. Data integration (using Web services) was simple due to the server-side architecture and usage of XML and SOAP-based services. Thanks to the Droplets system and access logs, debugging applications during development and production was easy. Session-specific debugging was also enabled. What was really nice was the post-production extension of the application. An application-level usage reporting module was requested, and it was developed and deployed in less than two weeks. The entire new application extension was launched with minimum downtime.

Conclusion
The Droplets platform presents a nice alternative for both developers and IT managers. Developers can use their favorite IDE and use a high-level component-based environment. IT managers can still enjoy their zero-touch deployment.

Microsoft has recognized this space and presents a solid case with smart clients (www.microsoft.com/net/products/client.asp). Let's compare Droplets with .NET smart clients.

With smart clients, any machine that has a .NET CLR installed can download a .NET assembly and can do anything that the CLR classes and the security framework allow, so it fits the "rich client" aspect quite nicely. On top of this, .NET allows automatic synchronization of code versions. The IEEXEC component (integrated with IE) keeps a local cache synchronized with the server-side assembly and does delta updates automatically.

Droplets, a Java-based server, is platform independent. Currently it runs on Windows, HP Unix, Sun Solaris, and mainframe Linux. Microsoft .NET remains a Windows family–only solution. This is major for IT shops having disparate systems and trying to put sharper front ends to their traditional back-end systems.

Smart Clients Promise Offline Capability
The Droplets platform always needs a network connection to the server. However, smart clients are capable of working with local caches (both file system and DB engine based). The promise of being able to work on an application with or without a network connection is huge and will fuel an entire class of on-the-road applications.

However, Droplets has a strong story in the security area. A .NET smart client depends on code being downloaded to the client machine and running on an environment managed by a CLR. It's quite cumbersome to set up the client-side privileges of downloaded code using the Code Access Security (CAS) model. This also leaves much to worry about considering what security door might be left open in downloaded code, exposing it to some serious security breach.

The Droplets platform presents a compelling option for building rich Web applications using a secure and a platform-independent architecture.

Resource

  • Source code: www.sys-con.com/java/sourcec.cfm or www.mectechnologies.com/articles/JDJ/Droplets/Trader.zip

    Droplets Inc.
    636 Avenue of the Americas
    New York, NY 10011
    Web: www.droplets.com
    Phone: 212 691-0800
    Fax: 212 691-6335

    Specifications

  • Deploys standalone, or with any J2EE-compliant application server
  • Supports Windows NT, Windows 2000, Linux, Solaris
  • Programming tools for Java and C++; OO Cobol and VB.Net coming soon
  • Integration with Borland JBuilder; Oracle JDeveloper and Eclipse in beta
  • Windows, Linux, Unix, wireless devices as standalone apps/within a Web browser
  • Integrate with Web services protocols with webMethods’ Glue

    Snapshot
    Pros:

  • Easy-to-build, highly rich Web-based applications
  • Secure application deployment
  • Java-based server enables cross-platform support

    Con:

  • No offline capability
  • More Stories By Somnath Banerjee

    Somnath is the Founder of MEC Technologies, a provider of Web Services and X-Internet related technology products and services. MEC is a Cupertino, CA based company with engineering organizations in India. MEC customers span large Financial Institutions, Manufacturing organizations and other High Technology companies.

    Comments (2) View Comments

    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.


    Most Recent Comments
    Smriti 02/11/04 03:26:58 AM EST

    ULC (www.canoo.com/ulc) is pure Java based rich thin client frame work for J2EE applications. It provides server side widgets with API exactly similar to Swing. ULC apps run in any std J2EE container (servlet or EJB). Client is thin and universal (350 KB of Java) and requires JRE 1.2 or higher on the desktop. There is a Visual Builder plug-in available for IBM Websphere Studio and soon for Eclipse. Developers can use any IDE to program with ULC classes.

    Tahir Awan 02/10/04 11:29:04 AM EST

    I am surprised to see that the author didn''t mention one of the biggest problem I''ve seen while working with droplets platform. That''s having to restart the server every time the code is modified. Imagine a code-build-test cycle where one has to restart the server every time.
    Having worked with mostly J2EE servers with hot-deployment capability, this is the biggest problem I face.

    /tahir

    @ThingsExpo Stories
    Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities – ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous impor...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale is the leading provider of Software-Defined Servers that bring flexibility to modern data centers by right-sizing servers on the fly to fit any data set or workload. TidalScale’s award-winning inverse hypervisor technology combines multiple commodity servers (including their ass...
    As popularity of the smart home is growing and continues to go mainstream, technological factors play a greater role. The IoT protocol houses the interoperability battery consumption, security, and configuration of a smart home device, and it can be difficult for companies to choose the right kind for their product. For both DIY and professionally installed smart homes, developers need to consider each of these elements for their product to be successful in the market and current smart homes.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
    In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, will lead you through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He'll look at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering ...
    As hybrid cloud becomes the de-facto standard mode of operation for most enterprises, new challenges arise on how to efficiently and economically share data across environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Dr. Allon Cohen, VP of Product at Elastifile, will explore new techniques and best practices that help enterprise IT benefit from the advantages of hybrid cloud environments by enabling data availability for both legacy enterprise and cloud-native mission critical applications. By rev...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp emp...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale, a leading provider of systems and services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale has been involved in shaping the computing landscape. They've designed, developed and deployed some of the most important and successful systems and services in the history of the computing industry - internet, Ethernet, operating s...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
    Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
    Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant tha...
    Infoblox delivers Actionable Network Intelligence to enterprise, government, and service provider customers around the world. They are the industry leader in DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, the category known as DDI. We empower thousands of organizations to control and secure their networks from the core-enabling them to increase efficiency and visibility, improve customer service, and meet compliance requirements.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
    Amazon is pursuing new markets and disrupting industries at an incredible pace. Almost every industry seems to be in its crosshairs. Companies and industries that once thought they were safe are now worried about being “Amazoned.”. The new watch word should be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” In his session 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Kocher, a co-founder of Grey Heron, will address questions such as: What new areas is Amazon disrupting? How are they doing this? Where are they likely to go? What are th...
    In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn't require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbui...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
    Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant th...
    With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.