Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Liz McMillan, Mano Marks, Elizabeth White, Mehdi Daoudi, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: 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 cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
"Tintri was started in 2008 with the express purpose of building a storage appliance that is ideal for virtualized environments. We support a lot of different hypervisor platforms from VMware to OpenStack to Hyper-V," explained Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The security needs of IoT environments require a strong, proven approach to maintain security, trust and privacy in their ecosystem. Assurance and protection of device identity, secure data encryption and authentication are the key security challenges organizations are trying to address when integrating IoT devices. This holds true for IoT applications in a wide range of industries, for example, healthcare, consumer devices, and manufacturing. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lancen LaChance, vic...
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it m...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus o...
Big Data engines are powering a lot of service businesses right now. Data is collected from users from wearable technologies, web behaviors, purchase behavior as well as several arbitrary data points we’d never think of. The demand for faster and bigger engines to crunch and serve up the data to services is growing exponentially. You see a LOT of correlation between “Cloud” and “Big Data” but on Big Data and “Hybrid,” where hybrid hosting is the sanest approach to the Big Data Infrastructure pro...
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists peeled away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud enviro...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
"LinearHub provides smart video conferencing, which is the Roundee service, and we archive all the video conferences and we also provide the transcript," stated Sunghyuk Kim, CEO of LinearHub, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Things are changing so quickly in IoT that it would take a wizard to predict which ecosystem will gain the most traction. In order for IoT to reach its potential, smart devices must be able to work together. Today, there are a slew of interoperability standards being promoted by big names to make this happen: HomeKit, Brillo and Alljoyn. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Adam Justice, vice president and general manager of Grid Connect, will review what happens when smart devices don’t work togethe...
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
Discover top technologies and tools all under one roof at April 24–28, 2017, at the Westin San Diego in San Diego, CA. Explore the Mobile Dev + Test and IoT Dev + Test Expo and enjoy all of these unique opportunities: The latest solutions, technologies, and tools in mobile or IoT software development and testing. Meet one-on-one with representatives from some of today's most innovative organizations
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in Embedded and IoT solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/Big Data, HPC and E...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.