Many of the enterprise applications released this year were notable for their productivity-enhancing features—brought to fruition in large part by vendors focus on design efficiencies.
Some interesting examples of AJAX in use can be found in NetSuite and Nsite 5.0, hosted applications for managing CRM data, and Zimbra Collaboration Suite, an open-source messaging and collaboration package.
All three of these products leverage AJAX to varying degrees to drive usability or extend functionality. The NetSuite usability feature called eXtreme List Editing uses AJAX to allow users to manipulate lists of information on the fly.
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Zimbra, meanwhile, has developed a client experience around AJAX, giving users a Web browser interface that delivers the robust experience they would otherwise only see in a dedicated client such as Outlook.
Furthermore, AJAX integration allows Zimbra to provide some innovative features, such as giving users the ability to work in context.
For example, a reference to a day or date in an e-mail can be an active link that exposes information about a users calendar, making scheduling simpler. This same technology could be used effectively to expose information in other enterprise applications, including CRM and ERP systems.
AJAX isnt the only method Ive seen this year for delivering a rich client experience in the Web browser. Using Adobes Macromedia Flex, Incentive built an incentive management program that is easily customized and administered. The form elements in Centive Compel, which analysts use to build plans, make it easy to pull together plan components without having to fill out a single massive form.
One thing that didnt happen this year, much to my surprise, was consolidation among Web conferencing and CRM vendors. In fact, the opposite happened, with more vendors entering these already-saturated markets. Some consolidation has occurred, but it seems that vendors are still able to differentiate, innovate and compete on price.
Next Page: Flexible architecture, unified management and e-mail handling.
Flexible Architecture, Unified Management,
One company thats setting an innovation example is Salesforce.com: AppExchange, which debuted this year, gives Salesforce.com customers an opportunity to try out other on-demand applications that integrate with Salesforce.coms offerings.
Now, I dont believe that application rental is a viable financial model for the enterprise—not, at least, for what Salesforce.com charges—but AppExchange illustrates that options for buyers improve considerably when you start with a flexible and extensible architecture.
The one thing Salesforce.com has done exceptionally well—and AppExchange proves this point—is to build an application that can be customized by the customer without causing it to break during upgrades.
Salesforce.com and its partners do need to figure out how to unify management. As it stands, users may never know they are accessing two different applications when using the Salesforce. com service and one of its partner applications. However, administrators do know, because they have to manage each application separately.
One of the biggest problems administrators will face going forward is helping users to manage all of the e-mail they now have to retain (for regulatory and other reasons). This IT problem is a huge opportunity for vendors.
Storage vendors would like us to think its OK to have mailboxes of unlimited size. But, sooner or later, users will need to delete some messages, and theyll invariably delete messages they need. Smart companies will search out products that simplify storage management and make it easy to restore content to the mailbox as needed.
Finally, the changes in the database world that started last year with the introduction of Oracle Database 10g continued this year with most major database vendors releasing new versions. Most notably, IBM, MySQL and Microsoft rolled out updates that will have significant impact due to improvements in administration and scalability.
eWEEK Labs Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at email@example.com.
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