Next-Gen Apps To Put New Spin On Client/Server

The advent of Web services will lead application developers to adopt a client/services model, but not the type seen in the past, predicts a Boston-based research firm.
Posted March 21, 2002

Dan Muse

The advent of Web services will lead application developers to adopt a client/services model, predicts the Yankee Group, a Boston-based research firm.

These next-generation applications promise to offer the best of local and centralized computing worlds. The client/services architecture will take advantage of local computer power, ubiquitous connectivity and Web services to create a richer user experience. However, IT departments will maintain control through centralized services and management, according to The Next Generation Web: Locally Empowered Applications.

The report says applications will shift away from a thin-client, brower-based approach. However, this is not your father's similar-sounding client/server architecture that the Yankee Group is talking about. "Open application protocols, such as SOAP, XML, WSDL and HTTP, are the keys that make client/services computing different from prior paradigms."

For these new applications, the Yankee Group predicts, Web services and TCP/IP will be the glue that binds localized processing with centralized services (such as storage, authentication and security). The end result will be that a user's software experience is more productive across different client devices (i.e., notebooks PCs, PDAs, smart phones and so on), while IT management maintains the same level of control found in server-based applications.

"Similar to the way enterprises are organized, the next-generation application will combine a balance of complete functionality on the client tethered to — and managed by — central services at the data center," said Neal Goldman, director of the Application Infrastructure & Software Platforms service at the Yankee Group. This new breed of application will emerge over the next two to five years, Goldman said.

For ASPs, Goldman said, the shift will be significant as they will go from delivering complete hosted applications to providing specific components of the application — some hosted, some client-side.

He also predicted that current providers of Net-native software will need to develop client plug-ins to fit into the new architecture. And as was the case in the early days of the ASP model, developing solutions for billing and service level monitoring will be a challenge in the client/services world.

The Yankee Group points out that the client/services paradigm isn't an unproven concept. The report cites the technological (if not legal) success of Napster as proof-positive of the architecture. "Napster provided a client application, didn't store MP3s on a central server and achieved fine file transfer performance with minimal storage and communication cost. However, centralizing user registration, indexing and searching improved the performance of finding songs when compared to purely decentralized systems," the report says.

Anyone who has followed the history of computing from the strictly mainframe days to now won't be surprised to hear the Yankee Group's prediction of another swing in the software pendulum. "Our industry has seen continual swings from pure thin client to pure fat client and back," said Goldman.

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