Monday, December 17, 2007

And the Winner is: My Award for the Most Innovative Product of 2007

As the year starts to come to a close we often take some time to look back at the year and look at the innovations that we have seen that have changed our worldview. I can think of many things that have had a large impact on me: The FireFox XForms extension, discovering the beauty of a well-designed REST interface, the mule enterprise service bus, Yahoo pipes and microformats all come to mind.

But after careful consideration I have to hand my award out to the most innovative application of the year to me to the eXist database/web server. This application constantly amazes me with what I can do with it. If you have a Java JVM on your desktop it only take a few minutes to get it running. Hit the startup script and you have a web server running on localhost:8080. Open a WebDAV browser and drag-and-drop you files and folders and away you go. With eXist I can easily setup a full enterprise metadata registry on a laptop in under five minutes.

The power of eXist comes from its use of the XQuery engine. Any well-formed XML file that is added to the system gets instantly indexed and can instantly be searched. That means that 10ms after you hit the "Save" on your XForms you can see the data appear in XQuery reports.

But the "Secret Sauce" of eXist rests in it's use of a lightweight Jetty web server with a remarkably integrated REST and WebDAV interface. This means that every XML file…is a static web service. This means that every XQuery that returns XML…is a dynamic web service that you can parameterize. This means that you can be writing your first web services in fifteen minutes that can be grabbing data from a dozen different XML files and quickly serializing the results out the wire. Enterprise mash-ups at your fingertips. Very little programming is done other then selecting data. Just like it should be.

eXist technologies are going to start to have a big impact once XForms/REST and XQuery (XRX) web development matures. I predict this is going to happen in the next three years. An although IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and many others are supporting XQuery in a big way, they don't yet have the really smooth integration with next-generation XForms-driven clients. You still need teams of AJAX, JavaScript, Java, .Net and SQL programmers to build simple web services for rich client interfaces.

I must admit it took me a little while to really understand how the simplicity of the interface really rocked my world. Just swap out the world "rest" in the URL and replace it with the word "webdav" and you go from a data browser to a file system that works with every copy/cut and paste operation of the file system.

It is also interesting to note that this product did not come out of a Bay Areas startup, it didn't come out of Google Labs, it didn't come from Microsoft or IBM. From what I can tell the initial version was pretty much written by a single guy in Germany, Wolfgang Meier. It think this shows that there is still room for true innovation by a single individual in this world. Although eXist now appears to have a great team of people behind it, it shows that a single person with a clear architectural can put the right pieces together really can make a difference in the world. Our teams could not have been as productive with XForms if we didn't have a clean and elegant tool like eXist behind our forms. I know that XRX innovators will no be able to stand on Wolfgang's shoulders and build incredible applications.

Thanks Wolfgang! Your labor of love is growing up!

1 comment:

Wolf said...

Thanks Dr. Data! It is feedback like this that keeps me motivated :-)

Wolfgang, the "guy in Germany"