Friday, December 14, 2007

Introducing the XRX Architecture: XForms/REST/XQuery

At the XML 2007 conference there were many people that seemed to have independently discovered that if you combine XForms/REST and XQuery you can create a software development environment that circumvents the need for middle tier objects and conversion to and from relational databases.

The conference also had a great deal of discussion of how XForms is a great architecture but as Elliot Rusty Harold pointed out, we need something to happen for XForms to replace things like AJAX. Although Rusty did propose a few interesting ideas (like getting XForms built into FireFox) I feel what we really need is a contagious meme. And I think it goes beyond XForms. What we need is an easy-to-remember and easy-to-communicate name for a collection of great ideas. For example there are few books that have the word XMLHttpRequest in it. But there are hundreds of books with AJAX in the title. Once the word AJAX was coined the meme started to spread. The world was waiting for the "sticky" label behind the concepts.

What XForms needs is a label around the collection of ideas that makes XForms really give you an order-of-magnitude improvement over other web development architectures. I would like to suggest that we get behind one "label" that brings many of use under one big tent. I would like to suggest we use "XRX".

XRX to me would stand for the ideas behind XForms/REST/XQuery web applications. But if people are using XHTML as a container for XForms you could use XHTML/REST/XQuery. Just spare use the "J" which is associated with a hard-to-use language for ├╝ber geeks.

You could also use XRX for the format of the data in the client and on the server. In this case it would be XML on the client (in the XForms Model), and in a native XML database that supports a REST interface.

We can still build awesome tools and frameworks that make the XRX architecture really fly. IBM Workplace Forms Development tools, Orbeon Presentation Server, Kurt Cagle's new frameworks that use the eXist native XML database, and the hundreds of other XForms development tools all fit into the XRX strategy.

But if we make XRX into a "big tent" strategy we can also include XQuery on the server as part of the architecture. This would include people like Jason Hunter at MarkLogic. Jason is an experienced Java developer that has started to move away from Java on the server and toward XQuery because of its richness. And I could not agree more.

I have been reading the book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell and trying to apply the ideas in it to the adoption of XForms and XQuery. I think that the book has many example of how a careful packaging of the ideas behind a contagious meme can make ideas spread like widefire.

So when we hear the term "XRX" we want to have the following concepts come to mind:

  1. A web development architecture with a 10x productivity improvement over traditional JavaScript/OO/RDBMS methods
  2. A development architecture based on international standards that is designed to minimize the probability of vendor-lockin
  3. An architecture that gives a rich user experience without creating mountains of spaghetti procedural code on either the client or the server
  4. A system that leverages the REST architecture to take advantage of high-performance and simple interfaces using web standards
  5. Portability on both the client and the server using a variety of forms players and XQuery databases
  6. The option of avoiding costly shredding (and reconstitution) of complex XML documents into RDBMS tables
  7. A community of standards/tools and a "complete solution" ecosystem that can give you a proven ROI on your IT investment

I don't expect everyone to buy into the XRX meme ideas. Everyone has their own favorite tools/standards and acronyms. But everyone that was at the XML 2007 conference could feel the excitement in the room at the XML presentations. Now we need to give that excitement a name and see if it sticks. Hopefully a few years we will be able to walk into a bookstore and see a bunch of books with "XRX" on the cover.

What I now need is for people to start to test the XRX meme and see if it slicks. Let me know what works and what does work. Send me your 30-second elevator pitch. How big should the idea tent be? What do we have to do to get more people in our tent? What evidence (case studies), example programs and resource do we need to convince the world we have seen the light …and its so elegant and beauty to will keep us from ever going back to the stone age of web development.

1 comment:

Yves said...

I am pretty surprised that there is no other comments on this article. I just read about XRX last week and ever since then I have been so excited to have found the technology I have been dreaming of ever since I have been working with xml. The idea seems to be perfect but why no wide adaptation? The fact that there is no comments on this blog must mean something. XForms seem to be dying, or at least some projects, the mozilla and ubiquity to name a few. So why...