Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Tim Hinds, Dana Gardner, AppDynamics Blog

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

The Return of the Pig

The Return of the Pig

The key to building a distributed application successfully lies in a sensible partition of work across the different boundaries and devices. With a client/server program, one of the advantages it offers over a more traditional thin client is that for each task, instead of having to wait for the server to page the application back into memory, process the results of the display buffer, and prepare output, the PC is able to offload some of the validation and processing locally.

Not only is this more responsive to the user, but it makes sense to have a physical division of responsibilities in which code logic is executed closest to where relevant resources lie. Field-level validation, defaulting, and completion of values can all be done on the client. Even where such processing requires trips to the server, an atomic call to the server on a text field's focus-change event can easily validate an entry against a database. By scheduling the display thread this way the GUI can remain responsive. Another benefit of using the client's windowing subsystem fully is the ability to open multiple shells or dialogs simultaneously and have the user move, size, and arrange them to make the best use of the available space.

In a presentation to users or a sales pitch to potential customers, the eye-candy of a windows program will always win over a terminal-based application. In chapter one of the client/server wars, those with a lot of investment in back-end technology required a quick fix to counter the glitterati of the GUI, and one technique that arose is "screen scraping." This is where the data stream intended for the server's terminal is interpreted and re-presented on the desktop using a best guess set of controls and widgets. From the back of a dimmed room in a demo or on the noisy floor of a software booth at a conference, it looks pretty impressive. It's no more than a fool's shiny silver bullet, however, as all that it gains is the glitter of the GUI without any accompanying depth. The transactional mode of the application remains with logic being done on the server; simultaneous multiple windows don't occur as the workflow is restricted to merely coloring in the terminal's display, and an extra layer of processing has been added to the previously working program for very little perceived benefit.

One metaphor often used to describe screen scraping is "lipstick on a pig," perhaps loaded slightly unfairly with the implication being that the original application shares its characteristics with a snorting, mud-loving suidae beast. What is correct with the analogy is that skin-deep cosmetics don't change the true makeup of the underlying subject.

Screen scraping fortunately hasn't taken root in serious application development, instead the Web browser has become the modern terminal; HTML, the display format; and users have been delivered the graphical interface they yearned for. While true client/server developers were wrestling, solving issues such as systems management and distribution in a heterogeneous world, the Web filled in the software space created by the growth in the PC market and the availability of faster and cheaper networks.

Web applications still suffer from some of the problems that any page-based server GUI has, including the transactional nature of the screens, round-tripping for validation not delivering a highly responsible application, and the difficulty of working with multiple windows simultaneously. Most of the problems that plagued client/server development have been solved and several customers I talked to are reassessing the desktop because their applications have reached the physical boundaries of what a traditional J2EE program can deliver. There are more tools available now such as Java Web Start, better Swing libraries, and the Eclipse Rich Client Platform.

History has a habit of repeating itself, and in the past few months I've been alarmed to see demos of and read about several new ways to create a "rich desktop application" from within J2EE. All of these eloquently outline the current problems and limitations of the Web programming model from a user standpoint and preach the advantages of maximizing the power of the desktop. What is disturbing is that a lot of these then present a solution that is no more than 21st century screen scraping. Some of these offer solutions in which the same presentation markup can be rendered in a browser as a portlet or else in a desktop engine as the same GUI, but with native controls.

The debated advantages to this are that the investment in existing technology is preserved, and the same program can be deployed into a browser or to the user's desktop with the flick of a switch. My fear regarding these kinds of programs is that on the desktop they won't look and feel and behave as a true client program should, and because they falsely use adjectives such as "rich" or "desktop" to describe them, they'll somehow dilute these terms and make it hard for users to distinguish a dressed-up Web application from a true client one.

One of the advantages of having the browser shell is that every thing that lies within it is expected to operate in a certain way, and requests to the user to "press retry to refresh the page" or notifications that a "session time-out occurred" have become acceptable. Disguising the browser with native controls but not offering any of the advantages of a properly constructed client program offers a thin veneer that is no different from the screen scraping techniques of yore.

When the same server program can kick out a browser and rich GUI, is this an elegant solution that is going to meet the user's requirements, or is it just something that is technically elegant and demos well, but behind the robes is no more than lipstick on a browser?

More Stories By Joe Winchester

Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

Comments (4) 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
Francis Carden 01/11/05 10:10:16 AM EST

I think you do miss a huge point. I've been involved in "screen scraping" of many forms for 15 years so speak from experience (how sad is that :) ).

Seriously, to use your same analogy. Why do you think we still have Pigs? Because there is nothing else that will give you this meat in so many guises. Bacon, Pork Chops, Pork Loin, Ham. All of these products "meat" our transactional requirements even though it's a dirty "meat" and there is no replacement on the horizon.

OK, so what do I mean. 10 years ago, everyone wanted to rewrite their "pig" applications. Some worked, some failed, some succeeded but were little better. Now we have different pigs. 5 years ago, everyone wanted a "Lipstick on a Pig", also known as a brand new composite application that scraped data from the old apps. This didn't work well as the pigs were a complex beast and never stable. Now what seems is back is to use the backend "Lip Stick on a pig" technology to enhance/speedup/simplify the end user experience. This means doing the scraping but just using the components scraped to save "time". Users have so many "pig" apps on their desk they spend 10% of their time re-keying data (or cut and paste). That 10% time saving adds up in a 5000 user customer service org. QUite simply then, screen scraping works but you have to choose how to implement it, very very carefully.

Last but not least. "What makes a PIG (legacy) application ?" - anything written more than 5 minutes ago. You see, nothing has changed. IMHO, there are more pigs today then there were 5 years ago. Today we are just putting another coat of lipstick on the same, or newer pigs.

Definately a very important subject so thanks for writing it.

Martin 01/10/05 09:20:25 AM EST

Hi Joe, thx for explanation that I fully agree with. And apologies for my initial misunderstanding of the article :)
Cheers, MAF

Joe Winchester 01/10/05 04:17:55 AM EST

Hi Martin,
Sorry if my point got buried in my diatribe. I agree that there is a lot of great benefit in having apps that do XML type comms between the layers - I've seen these in action and they marry the best of both worlds. My point is more about technology that takes a fully baked web app that was designed for an HTTP page based conversation and then try to re-package simply the GUI with a different widget set and present this as a "rich-client" app. They remind me very strongly of silver bullet screen scraping technology that was kicking around in the early 90s.
Take care,
Joe

Martin 01/07/05 08:47:56 AM EST

Not sure if I got Joe's point, but is he saying that nothing else makes sense then regular fat client/server app or crystal pure web-app with standard web-browser fed by HTML provided by the server (regardless the server technology)?

I strongly disagree, that '... requests to the user to "press retry to refresh the page" or notifications that a "session time-out occurred" have become acceptable...'. This is clearly seen from purely technical perspective, but is not true for the business end-user.

I believe there is quite a number of strong business and technical arguments why companies are looking for and implementing enriched web-browser front-ends that do eliminate the major problems of traditional web-based apps (request-response, weak validation support, ...) and communicate with centralized business logic in front-end independent format (e.g. XML).

Therefore regardless whether if such solutions are called 'rich-browser' or 'lipstick on browser', its business and technical advantages are clear and understandable.

Cheers,
MAF

@ThingsExpo Stories
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, will discuss how leveraging the Industrial Interne...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
The demand for organizations to expand their infrastructure to multiple IT environments like the cloud, on-premise, mobile, bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. As this hybrid infrastructure increases, the challenge to monitor the security of these systems increases in volume and complexity. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty, Chief Security Evangelist at Alert Logic, will show how properly configured and managed security architecture can...
A critical component of any IoT project is the back-end systems that capture data from remote IoT devices and structure it in a way to answer useful questions. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle large data sets, but they are not well suited to many IoT-scale products and the need for real-time insights. At Fuze, we have developed a backend platform as part of our mobility-oriented cloud service that uses Big Data-based approache...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
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, vice president of product management, IoT solutions at GlobalSign, will teach IoT developers how t...
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, will explain how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.