Ajax may not be totally free, but the hot Web presentation technology continued its march in that direction as Tibco Software Inc. today released the latest version of its General Interface product complete with a free license for all public deployments.
The five-year-old software has reached version 3.1 and offers an integrated development environment with a visual studio for creating Ajax front ends as well as other rich Internet applications. Previously it had been tied to a standard software license, but Kevin Hakman, director of product marketing for Tibco General Interface, said that model didn't work for such a developer-centric technology.
"Developers kept telling us 'The enterprise price point for starting off is more than we can afford,'" Hakman said. "This way they can build and test with it and, if they like it, hopefully recommend it up the chain."
Increasingly, vendors are deciding to make their money once companies seek service and support for mission-critical Ajax deployments rather than by trying to extract it up front. The General Interface public license allows any company to create an Ajax interface on the Web. For internal deployments, Tibco will charge a license on a sliding scale. It will also have ISV and OEM licenses.
Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner Inc., noted, "There's a wildfire of interest among developers at the grassroots level. If you want to stay relevant in the Ajax market, you're going to have to do something like this."
He added that J2EE application servers became widely adopted in large part thanks to free distribution in the developer ranks.
"Back in the late '90s when you went to show, they'd hand you the app server on a disc," Valdes said. Eventually that turned into a lucrative business as IT shops embraced the Java application server as a primary development tool.
Hakman acknowledged the ground-up nature of the technology, saying, "We're putting out an open invitation to developers."
The tools proliferating the market have only begun to catch up to the interest on the user side. Hakman's group has been tracking Google hits for Ajax, watching it rise in six months from 13 million to 93 million.
"There's more search results for Ajax than for Britney Spears," he said.
The latest version of General Interface has added visual drag and drop binding for any type of XML message and new debugging capabilities that allow visibility into community loops. It is available for free download as of today.
General Interface has also begun to bleed into Tibco's middleware stack. Hakman noted that Tibco's business process management tool leverages the General Interface functionality and that it's Java Business Integration mediator will do the same.
Those moves mirror industry-wide efforts to bring Ajax and service-oriented architecture under the same umbrella. Valdes noted that Ajax should eventually become a standard part of all developer toolkits, capable of putting a front end on whatever sort of Web service or Web application is being built.