Primavera Finds Success with Flexibility, Adobe

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-09-25

Primavera Finds Success with Flexibility, Adobe

When Primavera Systems needed to upgrade some of its legacy Web applications, the project and portfolio management software maker and services company looked first at the hot AJAX tools on the market. The company would eventually choose Adobe Systems Flex, primarily due to its flexibility.

Adobes Flex technology is an application development solution for creating cross-platform RIAs (rich Internet applications) within the enterprise and across the Web, said Jeff Whatcott, senior director of product marketing for Adobes Enterprise and Developer Business Unit, in San Jose, Calif.

Flex—now known as Flex 2—enables the creation of expressive and interactive Web applications with broad reach. Enterprises can use the product to quickly build and deploy applications that improve the user experience, boost the bottom line and analyze data to allow better business decisions, Whatcott said.

That is what Primavera for Services, the services division of Primavera, was looking for, said Andrew Tahvildary, vice president of development at Primavera for Services, in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

"Our [primary] application is a J2EE [Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition], Web enterprise application that provides flexible project portfolio, human resource and project management solutions that can support a wide range of projects, as well as short-duration activities," Tahvildary said.

The Primavera solution typically is hosted by Primavera for international use rather than deployed at the customer sites.

"To enhance the products ease of use and to provide our users with a rich, powerful UI [user interface] to simplify complex user tasks, we looked at Adobe Flex 2 and a bunch of AJAX [Asynchronous Java-Script and XML]- based tools at the start of the year," Tahvildary said.

Moreover, there are two specific areas where Primavera is seeking an improved user experience for the upcoming release of its solution, which is targeted for release in December, Tahvildary said.

"We needed to simplify a set of data-entry-intensive Web pages in a high-traffic module to provide a richer, more productive experience for our end users," Tahvildary said.

As a result of using Adobes Flex 2, "we have been able to reduce this down to a single grid-based data entry screen that is both visually appealing and much simpler to use" than the previous system that employed multiple screens and a complex UI, Tahvildary said.

The second requirement was to add a more powerful modeling and analytics tool while giving the user the same type of experience as using a desktop tool, he said.

For example, Tahvildary said it could be similar to using Microsofts Excel on the Web "to simplify a complex, multistep process; in a single, dynamic interface with powerful, rich data visualization—many different interactive charts—and drill-down capability for deeper analysis."

To that end, Flex 2 provides the ability to load a set of data and display it in several different ways simultaneously, Tahvildary said. "In this case, we were able to use a combination of charts and data grids to provide multidimensional views over a large set of analytical data," he said.

Moreover, "We are using Adobe Flex 2 to leverage our investment in Web services to allow us to deliver a truly rich user experience over the Web," he added. "The Flex 2 framework recently released by Adobe is the perfect complement to our existing service-oriented architectures. Adobe Flex 2 provides a broad selection of widgets and design tools to simplify the process of interface development. The components that are delivered out of the box deliver functionality that would be extremely expensive to develop using AJAX and DHTML [Dynamic HTML] frameworks."

Click here to read an eWEEK Labs review of Adobe Flex 2.

Beyond that, Flex 2 lets Primavera for Services developers build more sophisticated UIs rapidly in a structured and maintainable fashion without worrying about cross-browser platform compatibility issues that might crop up with AJAX, Tahvildary said.

In addition to providing a rich widget library, Flex delivers tools for developing UIs that communicate with the application server in an efficient and reusable way, Tahvildary said. This helps reduce the load on back-end servers, since the application is more interactive and the interactivity is high-performing, he said.

"Our Web services platform that supports Adobe Flex 2 is the same one that is used for back-end enterprise system integration," Tahvildary said. "Having this common platform allows us to realize significant benefits in the development process and cost."

Primavera for Services overall role as the professional services arm of Primavera Systems is to build solutions for people to better leverage their portfolio and project management, said Leyla Seka, director of marketing at Primavera for Services.

Seka said Primavera for Services has many customers. In one example, Electronic Data Systems has pushed Primavera for Services solution out to more than 140,000 people. "And [EDS] said they have a 1 percent increase in utilization of the solution, which, for them, translates to a savings of about $12 million," Seka said.

For its part, Primavera for Services helps organizations assign key resources to top-priority projects, making it easy for people to collaborate and deliver improved results, Seka said. Primavera for Services solutions are used by consulting companies and service organizations to maximize resource utilization, minimize costs, deliver on customer commitments, and manage multiple projects, she said. Primavera for Services solutions also enable companies, including large service organizations, to create a consistent methodology for global service delivery, Seka said.

Next Page: Flex 2 provides "the best of both worlds."

Flex 2 Provides Best

of Both Worlds">

Having launched its effort to upgrade its solution in April, Tahvildary said Primavera for Services is on a tight schedule to deliver by December. But he said the company is up to the task because the developers on the team were able to get up to speed on Flex 2 in two weeks or less.

Flex 2s wizards and ease-of-use features helped the developers, Tahvildary said. In addition, the Adobe ActionScript scripting language that is native to Adobes technology "is very natural for Java or C# developers," he said. And the ubiquity of Adobes Flash technology, on which Flex 2 is based, means that developers need not worry about browser-compatibility issues, Tahvildary said.

In addition, it didnt hurt that Adobe relaxed its licensing strategy with Flex 2. The company is now bringing its Flex core SDK (software development kit) to developers free of charge.

"With Release 2, the tools are free," Tahvildary said. "Adobe has delivered a great tool for developing rich Internet applications."

When Adobe announced the availability of the Adobe Flex 2 product line on June 28, it was the companys new tiered licensing model—aimed at bringing the power of Flex development to the masses—that had the company excited, according to Whatcott.

"Our strategy is to get us into the enterprise and get a million developers using Flex in three to five years," Whatcott said.

And with a tool set based on the Eclipse open-source development environment, a data services offering and the newly free Adobe Flex 2 SDK, Adobe is preparing developers for the next generation of the Web and rich Internet applications, Whatcott said.

He said Adobe moved to a free model for its core Flex SDK because "now its time, as the market has moved, and [RIA] has gone from a phase where we invented the term in 2002 to now being heavily adopted in the market."

Moreover, "Flex is all about building next-generation experiences on the Web," he said.

Meanwhile, Adobes Whatcott said ISVs such as Primavera for Services have long struggled to deliver the kind of user experience that Flex 2 provides, typically in HTML. Now, "Flex gives them the best of both worlds," Whatcott said. "It gives them the richness of client/server environments and the robustness and reach of Flash."

Despite areas where Flex 2 and AJAX compete for the attention of developers, Whatcott said the two technologies can be complementary.

Indeed, Adobe has created two open-source libraries—the Flex-AJAX Bridge and the AJAX Client for Flex Data Services—which will enable developers to easily add the capabilities of the Flash Player and the Flex 2 framework to AJAX applications, Whatcott said. And developers also can add AJAX functionality into RIAs built with Flex 2, he added.

The Flex-AJAX Bridge lets developers call Flash Player Graphics APIs and create Flex objects and other activities. In essence, the bridge can enable things such as passing data from an AJAX data grid to a Flex bar chart or passing data to an AJAX widget from a Flex 2 application, Whatcott said.

The AJAX Client for Flex Data Services, expected to be available later this year, allows AJAX applications to connect to Flex Data Services 2.0 and support publish-and-subscribe messaging and other data services.

In the meantime, Adobe is working on its Apollo client. The Apollo project is an effort to build a cross-operating-system run-time that lets developers leverage their existing Web development skills, such as Flash, Flex, HTML and AJAX, to build and deploy desktop RIAs, Whatcott said.

"Were developing a new client for delivering AJAX and Flex applications outside the browser," Whatcott said, adding that he believes the browser is not necessarily the best place to run applications.

Case File: Primavera for Services, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

  • Organizational snapshot Provides project and portfolio management solutions, enabling customers to get insight into the full portfolio of their resources
  • Business need To upgrade a customer-facing Web application that had grown complex and was not interactive; the goal was to modernize the system with Web 2.0 capabilities and to deliver the new system in nine months
  • Technology partner Adobe Systems, San Jose, Calif.
  • Recommended solution To use Adobe Flex 2 to enhance Primavera for Services applications ease of use and to provide users with a rich interface to simplify complex tasks

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