IBM Proposes Open-Source AJAX Project to Eclipse

IBM's ATF Project will contain features for developing, deploying, debugging and testing AJAX applications.

IBM has proposed a new open-source project to the Eclipse Foundation that uses the AJAX style of development.

IBM Thursday proposed a new project, the ATF (AJAX Toolkit Framework) Project.

The AJAX Toolkit Framework will provide extensible frameworks and exemplary tools for building IDEs (integrated development environments) for the many different AJAX runtime offerings, such as Dojo, Zimbra, etc. in the market, according to the project proposal.

These frameworks will contain features for developing, deploying, debugging and testing AJAX applications, the proposal said.

Moreover, the proposal said tools built upon these frameworks will initially include: enhanced JavaScript editing features such as edit-time syntax checking; an embedded Mozilla web browser; an embedded DOM (Document Object Model) browser; and an embedded JavaScript debugger.

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In addition, ATF will use existing Eclipse extensions for web application deployment to provide a "server agnostic" environment, the project proposal said.

Initial adapters will include a J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition)/JSP (JavaServer Pages) adapter and an Apache/PHP adapter.

An additional and unique aspect of the framework is the Personality Builder function, which assists in the construction of arbitrary AJAX runtime frameworks, thus allowing those runtimes to be used with ATF tools, the ATF proposal said.

The proposal defines "personality" as a collection of IDE features that are specifically targeted to a certain AJAX Runtime Library. "This is a core concept of ATF: providing an extensible framework to support AJAX development in arbitrary AJAX runtimes," the proposal said.

"AJAX is a very good approach for a wide variety, though not all, Web front ends," said Michael Goulde, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc.

"The AJAX Toolkit Framework proposal makes a lot of sense, expanding the scope of how Eclipse is used by developers and the expanding the usage of Eclipse-based tools."

IBM said it makes an initial code contribution that will make up the core functionality for the ATF project including enhanced JavaScript editing; an integrated Mozilla environment including a browser, DOM inspector, error console and debugging; a personality builder; ATF personalities for Zimbra, OpenRico and Dojo; and adapters for J2EE/JSP and Apache/PHP, the proposal said.

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The ATF project lead will be Craig Becker, a member of IBMs technical staff. Meanwhile, a number of companies have expressed support for the project, including Zend Technologies Ltd., Laszlo Systems Inc., Zimbra Inc., Red Hat Inc., Oracle Corp., BEA Systems Inc. and Yahoo Inc.

The ATF proposal said the initial contribution from IBM focuses on Mozilla because Mozilla offers cross-platform interfaces for JavaScript debugging, but the framework will support other browsers with comparable functionality.

In addition, the framework is designed to support additional AJAX development tooling, the proposal said.

The ATF project plan is to deliver an initial prototype in the first quarter of this year. During the second quarter, the ATF project plans to support additional AJAX runtimes and server adapters and to add other enhancements.

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