Welcome!

Java Authors: Sematext Blog , Torben Andersen, Charles Jolley, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Java

Java: Article

JSF: The Ultimate in Flexibility? Or Complexity?

JSF: The Ultimate in Flexibility? Or Complexity?

I have a love/hate relationship with J2EE. I love the idea of standards that we can all use in our development to improve interoperability, ease integration issues, create a pool of skilled developers, etc. I hate the idea that I have to wait years for the standards to evolve and become usable. And I hate having specs that seem to work well in theory but have no practical implementation behind them. This brings me to the JSF specification.

How long have we heard about JSF (JavaServer Faces) and how it will make it easier to build Web pages? Why did it take more than two and a half years to come up with JSF, which is essentially an event model for Web pages? And it happened at a time when Microsoft was coming out with major innovations (a debatable point, I concede) and huge pushes targeted at providing ease of development for the corporate developer. Visual Studio/.NET developers look at the J2EE community and basically say "these guys don't get it."

Let's take a look back at JSPs. Isn't one of J2EE's goals to encourage encapsulation and object-orientation? If so, why create a standard that encourages a mixture of presentation logic, application logic, business logic, and data access into one page class? The answer is Microsoft. It was a reaction to what Microsoft had: "Hmm, we need something to compete with ASP. Hey, let's make JSP. We'll have tag libraries so we can easily embed components on a page and call it encapsulated." Obviously things have evolved a bit since then and we can now separate the flow of the application from the pages with frameworks like Struts. Well, last time I looked, Struts isn't part of J2EE - which means you're doing nonstandard development - but it is open and has an ecosystem of developers so it's a pretty safe choice. Of course, if you like editing XML, Struts is for you. There are Struts editors out there to help you, but in the end you're still dealing with a lot of complexity.

Now we have JSF, which promises to apply the "ease" of Swing to page development.

My expertise is in building corporate business applications and the needs of the business application developer. What I see in JSF is overengineering. Let's think of every possible usage pattern for Web pages and address them, not necessarily a bad thing. The resulting standard is one in which there are several layers of abstraction, many, many moving parts, and ultimate flexibility.

The problem is that ultimate flexibility comes at a cost - it's called ultimate complexity. From what I can tell, JSF won't actually reduce the complexity of creating Web applications. In fact, it greatly adds to the complexity. Just as JSPs did too little to provide granularity in building pages, JSF goes too far and makes things too granular. Do I really need a separate event to be called for each piece of data that has changed on a form? And possibly separate handlers for each? Be prepared for the framework that will sit in front of JSF to simplify its complexity.

In defense of JSF, it does follow many of the object-oriented Web page design concepts that we had at SilverStream in, oh, 1998. And it does have some appeal to the PowerBuilder developer that I used to be in the mid-'90s. However, experience has shown that building page-based applications with the level of object granularity shown in JSF doesn't make life easier; it makes it more complicated. I've architected and used many frameworks in my career and the trick is to perfect the balance between the ultimate flexibility that the architect wants and the ultimate usability by nonengineer developers.

I just joined ClearNova, and for several years our product, ThinkCAP, has provided a rapid way to build applications and presentations, one thing that attracted me to the company. We're doing the R&D needed to move parts of the platform toward JSF, but I'm concerned we'll lose a lot of the productivity that our current product has by implementing a spec that only object-oriented theorists could love. If we don't allow developers to have complete control over everything that JSF can do, we'll take flak from the purists, even if doing so makes the tool so hard to use that it appeals only to experienced J2EE developers.

Ultimately, my fear is that JSF will once again play into the hands of Microsoft's "complexity attack" and tempt business developers to run for the J2EE exit.

More Stories By Steve Benfield

Steve Benfield is CTO of Agentis Software. A technology marketeer and strategist with 20 years of software entreprenuerism experience, he is both a gifted writer and a technical visionary, a combination of qualities that made him the perfect choice of Editor-in-Chief for SYS-CON Media's inaugural publication 12 years ago, PowerBuilder Developer's Journal. Steve's proven ability to determine marketing and technology strategies that align with market needs led to successful stints at SilverStream, where he started as technology evangelist and ended as CTO, and at ClearNova where he was CTO.

Comments (7) 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
Fred 03/22/05 04:24:11 PM EST

Oh Doctor, maybe you should give another 3 months try to JSF, and particularly with MyFaces implementation. They have a pager and sorting for tables, and a lot more.
I've got more than one year of experience in JSF, and I love it !
So much easier than Struts once you've understood the JSF way of doing things.

Doctor 03/22/05 06:55:28 AM EST

I had practical experience with JSF 1.1 for three month.
Idea actually is great! :D But I think JSF is not ready for real world commercial application development. :( It's visual components lib is poor, for example there are not standard paging and sorting compinents for table and etc. Of course I can write my oun components, but I have not time and wish to do it. And what is more, JSF code is green and contains bugs. I think we should waiting for a year, before using it. Now JSF is good only for homepages. :(
Today I prefer Struts.

By the way, anybody knows any JSF-based professional commercial projects?

Busy retail developer 04/05/04 08:35:44 PM EDT

Agreed, pity I didn''t use my bogometer earlier.

I was not impressed by the Coldtags suite suggestion, it costs (which would be inconvenient) and I''m sick & tired of tag spagetti, I think only layout should be done by tags, everything else should be in well designed beans or configuration files.

Java software architect 04/05/04 10:32:32 AM EDT

I go with "guy",

looks like Steve only looks at the pictures. In the end, flexibility rules. JSF is very powerful, and, you can do it simple if you want.

My experience with Microsoft is that everything looks so simple, but in the end you discover that you need the same complexity as any other framework/technique.

The difference is just, that Microsoft tries to sell itself to managers with its appearent simplicity (one manager told me that with .NET we can build 6 times faster than with java, and he believed it), whereas java sells itself to (software) architects.

Maybe this leads to the following conclusion: Steve looks only skin deep (regarding technology) or listens to the wrong people, just like managers.

guy 03/31/04 02:03:20 AM EST

well;
obviously, this guy never had to deal directly with JSF or try to code a small application using it.
this technology is so easy & intuitive, you dont even need a supporting IDE to develop great apps.

Dan Novik 03/26/04 11:39:06 AM EST

Check out Coldtags suite for example:
http://www.servletsuite.com/jsp.htm
It is amazingly useful collection

Busy retail developer 03/21/04 11:25:22 PM EST

OK, so which projects are worth looking at, which are not merely a reaction to Microsoft, but offer genuine benefit for web developers?

I''m interested in the answer because I may have to more a client off the, over-priced, coding nightmare that is Informix Web DataBlade.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard 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. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
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.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons. Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as...
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
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...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
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.
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...