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Is j2flex a Promising Flex Data Framework?

Posted by Charles | October 24, 2007 .

Flex and RESTfull Ruby on Rails is my favorite data driven RIA web application framework. I even posted 10 Flex and Ruby on Rails resources awhile ago. I know people have been trying many other ways to allow Flex UI connect to the data sources, j2flex is a newer example.

There are not whole lot on the j2flex web site yet except a blog and the Flex APIdoc and Java APIdoc.. The main features of j2flex are  Metabase and doing data CRUD right within a Flex application using it API.

j2flex Is j2flex a Promising Flex Data Framework? Metabase is not something new, we’ve seen large business system such a MatrixOne, a PDM system, using metabase approach to make the database schema be changed on the fly. If look into Microsoft’s Sharepoint database schema, it’s very heavy on metabase, or Microsoft’s Project server database, etc. The idea is to store the tables, columns and the relationship definition in meta tables. In other words, the ER logic design of the business data is not translated/implemented into physical database tables, it’s translated into rows of data and stored into the metadata tables. Thus, you can use fixed number of tables in your database to form a large database that would be hundreds of tables if use traditional implementation. That’s what j2flex does at the data side. Its API (Flex and Java) is to facility the data in/out of such database.

Is it a good approach?

First, the major benefit of using metabase is flexibility. We all know that once your system is up and running, changing database schema will have great impact across all the layers of code you put there, regardless what nice data persistence framework you are using. Metabase allows you change database structure easily, or even programmingly because the database structure itself is actually data.

However, the drawback is obvious too. The scalability. Especially for transactional focused application that deal with large amount of data read/write in real time with large amount of online users, Metabase will facing critical performance issue. Another thing is database maintainability. It’ll be hard to maintain this type ‘virtual’ tables and relationships without design tools that understand metabase. There are not such tools, only because there is no metabase standard to work with.

Anyway, I think we’ll give j2flex a try once it release the code. I like the direct data CRUD within Flex approach but really doubt the unconventional Metabase approach at the backend. Being there and it tasted odd.

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