Coach Wei, CTO, Nexaweb
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AJAX is one of the hottest technology trends today with vendors of all shapes and sizes jockeying for position.
And though it has been hyped widely as a consumer-facing technology, with such notable sites as Google Maps, it can also potentially provide tangible benefits for the enterprise.
The promise of enterprise AJAX is what seven-year-old software development vendor Nexaweb is all about. Nexaweb provides an application development and deployment framework for rich internet applications that take advantage of AJAX and other Web 2.0-type technologies.
Rather than building out its solution set from scratch, Nexaweb has instead decided to take full advantage of the open source software ecosystem.
Internetnews.com spoke with Nexaweb's founder and CTO Coach Wei about Enterprise AJAX and how his firm uses the open source model to build product.
Q: Nexaweb has been in business for over seven years now. Have things gone according to plan or have there been some surprises along the way?
When we started Nexaweb in 2000 we came up with the name Nexaweb because we're trying to enable the next generation of the Web for business.
On one side we saw the tremendous business need to reduce the friction for transactions. We also recognized the tremendous challenges and limitations of the Internet. We saw a need. We saw the pain so we started the company.
There is a lot of excitement around what is now called Web 2.0 and that's great for us. What really surprises me is that I never would have imagined it would be called Web 2.0; that's a term we never thought of. We played with the terms from Forrester Research like Xinternet and a bunch of other names.
Somehow out of the blue, it's Web 2.0. The phrase came along and it's now widely accepted.
We're still on the same mission as the beginning, the timing is now great for us.
Q: What do you consider the biggest myth out there about what Nexaweb does or doesn't do?
Some think that Web 2.0 is already over. In my opinion, Web 2.0 is just in the very beginning.
We think that the impact of Web 2.0 technologies on the enterprise is in the very early stages. It will change the way we do business in the next few years.
Customers come to us because they are looking for an enterprise mashup. What they are actually really trying to solve is the problem of having data in many different systems and locations that need to be cost effectively integrated.
On the other side, from the business perspective, it's a real problem, a real pain and it has a solid ROI. So sure there is buzz factor, but if you really map the problem to the end-use case, there is a real business case.
Q: What's the key competition? Is it established vendors or because this space is so new, is it all green-field startups?
There are a lot of people claiming a lot of things. The number of vendors speaks to the excitement of the space. I think it's still a wide-open space.
The biggest thing that we compete against is the status quo, quite frankly. Getting people to understand that the way they have been building and deploying their solutions can be done better by using the Web 2.0 approach.
Q: What is Nexaweb's relationship with Apache and with open source in general?
In today's world open source is a significant movement that you cannot ignore. From Nexaweb's perspective, we look at open source very carefully and try and figure out how it will play into our strategy.
AJAX is hard but we don't believe you can build a company just on AJAX. We also believe that the best way to deliver AJAX technology is via open source.
The only non-open source for AJAX products that is sustainable is Microsoft.
We donated our AJAX technology to The Apache Software Foundation and that became the Apache XAP project in May of 2006. Commercially we are also adopting XAP in our own product; it's part of our Nexaweb AJAX client.
We have received contributions from non-Nexaweb people -- not at a big scale yet. At this moment most development is still driven by Nexaweb employees, but this is what we expected, as it takes a while for an open source project to build a big developer community. We're on the path to achieving that.
Q: Do you take advantage of other open source tools like Dojo or Eclipse in your development and in your products?
We are involved in quite a few open source projects. We contribute to open source projects like Apache, Dojo, Eclipse ATF and others.
We also actively utilize lots of open source projects in our own commercial offerings. We do that by creating additional value on top of the open source project.
Typically the value comes from build integration and adding missing pieces that deliver a good customer experience.
Nexaweb decided a long time ago to use what is available in the community and then build what is not available in the community.
We use Dojo, we use Eclipse AJAX Toolkit Framework (ATF), we use Eclipse Web Tools Project (WTP) and the Data Tools Project (DTP). We combined four or five projects together into an integrated offering and that's what we call Nexaweb Studio, which is our development environment.
We put all those projects together into one intuitive offering. What customers get is a very wealthy product that goes all the way to visual user interface design to data integration within a single business environment while leveraging the power of open source.