Seattle, FLEX and .NET
I've just spent basically a week now in Seattle, WA learning all there is to learn about Microsofts latest direction, offerings and what not. All I can say is, watch this space for more.
That being said, I decided to break away for a small bit to check out the local Flex User Group meeting over at Adobe Campus. The presentation was from Mark (CEO) over at Midnight Coders and the topic was "Integrating Flex with .Net and beyond" something which sparked my curiousity (given it compliments both my skills).
Mark proceeded to provide an entertaining breakdown of how one goes about using .NET solutions talking to FLEX User Interfaces, so much so that I kept thinking that his solution, WebORB is above and beyond what Adobe themselves have on offer in such space.
You see, Mark's company has spunup a server-side solution which enables the .NET folks the same capabilities as seen in Adobe Flash Media Server (FMS) and Adobe Flex Data Services (FDS) , only without the hefty price tag (combine both or individually and you still pay through the nose) and doesn't require the .NET folks out there to ditch their existing investment.
As to bring FDS into the room for a .NET team, they'll first scratch their heads and try and figure out a way to move forward in trying to connect FDS to .NET (before they even think of opening up Flex).
Not only does WebORB do this, but it tightly integrates in with Adobe Flex Builder so much so that I cast my mine back to the days when I coded in FLEX and simply thought "wow, screw the .NET piece, this should be the way we integrate FLEX with Server-Side code".
It not only integrates, but it also provides code-generation on the fly, so you don't have to sit there and spin your wheels putting together Remoting technology inside FLEX with say "Cairngorm" framework. That part comes for free (you can also override the generation templates to suite your coding style).
WebORB also is able to reflect the various database schemas available out there and creates appropriate code base to suite the CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) solutions. This is great for the average punter, but for the serious developers they'll prefer to broker their data requests with pre-defined query sets, which is why I asked if Mark had plans to integrate with Visual Studio 2005 ADO.NET pieces. As to do this, would truly complete the picture in that regard.
Bottom line folks, this is a fantastic piece of technology that will enable .NET troops to play with FLEX, only without having to ditch or monkey around with their existing code base (investments).
The sad part about this story is that Mark has a great offering here, which illustrates that Adobe appear more inclined to focus on other areas of their business other then integration with existing developerbase (ie how many .NET developers use FLASH/FLEX?). The fact this solution is out there, and not being advocated as much, is truly a shame as a lot of developers could easily benefit from this with minimal investment (it would also help their Software Development Life Cycle more aswell).
If you're a .NET developer and are struggling with FLEX, try this out as I think there is an Open Source version (provided its not for commercial sale) so its free.
They also have some movement around making the same pieces work with AJAX, how it integrates with ASP.NET AJAX is yet to be determined (which I plan to follow up with).