Not Your Fathers eSuite

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-05-14 Print this article Print

In the Notes days, Java applet components required being downloaded to the client each time they ran … Thats not the case here. If you see anybody comparing this to eSuite and things like that, were not building a Web-based desktop suite or any sort of network-only approach to this. In fact, the whole idea is that were leveraging a combination of using code that is resident on the device and smartly provisioning that as needed.
On the back end, were using the portal technologies from WebSphere Portal to manage, configure and provision the users, and we effectively build the desktop for a user at the server and stream down to them an XML data stream we call RCPML—Rich Client Platform Markup Language—that sends down XML data as well as tags for components.
The client knows if theres a component tag sent to it, it can go fetch the component as needed. Once youve provisioned the client for the first time, the whole environment and any new applications, etc., are always kept up to date and managed the same way that I would push down a new rev of a Web application. RCPML sounds somewhat similar to XAML on Longhorn. The idea is similar, that theres an extended markup language that also supports software componentization. Is the data itself encrypted? Yes. Weve based the storage on this Cloudscape encrypted store, and it supports sophisticated user-access controls. In the next version later this year, were also planning to add some additional control over editors that are used to manipulate documents in the store. On top of access control and encryption, we also have heard from customers the desire to be able to control what editors are being used on content: Even if I have access to it, I want to additionally signature-check the editor and make sure somebody didnt compromise my Word 97 editor, or I might just want to set some ground rules that at Corporation X, we only support Word 2000 and Adobe Acrobat. Where is the code that determines intelligently whether Office code is used if its available on the client? Thats on the client. The administrator can control what editors people are using, but the default is that the end-user can decide whether to use the embedded editors or the operating systems default editors, which are likely going to be Office. Does this have the same kind of speed hit that Word has when loaded as the messaging editor with Outlook and Notes? Certainly, theres a speed hit when you first launch it, but its not that significant. And to be perfectly frank, this is the beginning of a multiyear journey for us. What were showing and demonstrating and shipping in the first releases this quarter are the first exercises of this programming model, and there are loads and loads of things that are going to be on our plate to go add to this. But the most important point here is its changing the model of computing for rich applications, employing—arguably for the first time en masse—a server-managed client model where Im using dynamically provisioned client-side components in a holistic computing approach. Youre not sending down code so much as XML constructs that trigger templates on the client? Thats exactly right. For the most part, in a typical end-user experience, theyre just sending back and forth XML data streams. Once in a while, you may run into a new calendar-picker component or something thats been updated, so that gets streamed down to you, but for most common usage scenarios, youre not going to be downloading components every day. Next page: Digging into Sametime and QuickPlace.

Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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