Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: David H Deans, Yeshim Deniz, Janakiram MSV, Andreas Grabner, Stackify Blog

Related Topics: Microsoft Cloud

Microsoft Cloud: Article

The Executable Internet

The Executable Internet

As the Internet evolves, the demand for a Web interface that rivals the functionality of desktop applications has become evident. The solution is the "executable Internet," a rich-client technology boasting a client-side browser plug-in capable of making the user's experience of a Web page much more interactive and powerful. The combination of ASP.NET and Macromedia's Flash Remoting is one of the most compelling rich-client interfaces available to overcome today's development limitations.

The Limitations
In order to fully leverage the immense power of the .NET Framework on the Web, an interactive, responsive, and effective desktop-like user interface is required. Limited by the restrictions of HTML and alternative technologies such as DHTML, developers are forced to conform to browser standards when building their user interface and their application's functionality. These limitations cause Web applications to be much less interactive and powerful than their desktop counterparts.

Enter the Rich Client
Rich Internet applications offer many of the same possibilities as desktop applications, with the communication power of a Web browser. Rich-client applications have the ability to immediately react to a user's input and then display, process, or validate data based on that input while the user is either on- or offline.

By executing client-side scripts, rich-client applications also make use of the processing power available on the client computer rather than relying only on the Web-hosting server. This feature allows a much more efficient use of bandwidth and processing power than strictly server-side processing.

Rich Internet applications also make the client/server communications taking place in an application nearly invisible. This is accomplished by using an asynchronous, event-driven callback model instead of the traditional Web model. This asynchronous model can also decrease the amount of Web traffic needed to communicate between client and server, and increase the interactivity of the application by allowing the client to retain control of a Web Form while a call is being made to a remote server object.

About Flash
Macromedia's Flash Player technology is the most widely distributed rich Internet application on the market today. Macromedia Flash Player is currently installed on more than 400 million client devices, including platforms such as Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Sun Solaris, Microsoft TV, Pocket PC, and others. It is estimated that a version of Flash Player is available to over 98% of Web users. Flash is supported on essentially all version 4.0+ browsers, eliminating the client interface compatibility problems encountered with other HTML-based technologies such as DHTML and Cascading Style Sheets. Because Flash is supported in both browsers and devices, Flash applications can be deployed consistently across Internet-connected platforms. Flash Player also has a vast array of multimedia capabilities, including support for motion graphics, video, audio, two-way communications, and complex forms.

Traditionally, Flash's capabilities have been utilized by developers for the familiar "skip intro" animations. With the release of Flash MX, the capabilities of Flash have changed. Flash is now an interactive medium capable of processing complex data-driven business logic as well as rich user interfaces. ActionScript, Flash's scripting language, is a powerful object-oriented scripting language based on the ECMA-262 standard, which is also followed by JavaScript and Microsoft's JScript, making programming in Flash an easy transition for .NET developers.

Flash Remoting .NET
The component essential to the success of rich-client interfaces is the ability to quickly access server-side data. Macromedia's Flash Remoting for .NET provides an interface for communicating between Flash Player and .NET application servers.

Flash Remoting exposes .NET technologies such as Web services, ASP.NET pages, and .NET assemblies as remote services to Flash, allowing them to be called as if they were local ActionScript objects. Flash Remoting MX is used in .NET applications as a custom server control in ASP.NET pages or as a namespace in .NET assemblies, code-behind class files, and Web services. This gives the .NET developer the flexibility to build server-side logic in a variety of formats, all of which are accessible to the client.

Flash Remoting provides transparent conversions between Flash data types and the server-side .NET data types. These conversions take much of the work out of the hands of both the client and server-side developers, allowing focus to reside on the business logic and client interactivity instead of the object communication.

Flash Remoting for .NET communicates between the Flash client and the .NET server using a message format called AMF (Action Message Format), which is delivered over HTTP and modeled on SOAP. AMF is a binary message format, the likes of which have been found to reduce network traffic up to 50% compared to SOAP-formatted communication. Because it is delivered over HTTP, AMF is also securable via HTTPS and is firewall safe.

The Flash Remoting .NET environment consists of two layers: (1) the netservices layer, residing in the client Flash Player (available on all Flash Players version 6.40+); and (2) the remoting gateway, residing on the .NET Web server. The netservices layer is composed of a Flash include file containing all of the ActionScript classes necessary to send and receive communications on the Flash side. The remoting gateway consists of a .NET DLL that acts as controller on the .NET runtime that, among other things, handles the conversion of data types between ActionScript and the .NET Common Language Runtime. When this controller receives a request, the request passes through a series of filters that handle serializing, logging, and security before arriving at a service adapter that handles the appropriate invocation type.

Make It Happen
In order to demonstrate how to use .NET Flash Remoting, as well as introduce some ActionScript, I have created a .NET Remoting application available for download from www.sys-con.com/dotnet/sourcec.cfm. In my example I'll demonstrate how to pass DataTables from an ASP.NET page to a Flash object and bind that data to Flash user controls. In this example, you will see how an event-driven, asynchronous model is used to retrieve data from a Web server while allowing a client to retain control of the Web page.

Setting Up
Download and install the Flash MX authoring environment 30-day trial from www.macromedia.com/software/flash, and the Flash Remoting 30-day trial from www.macromedia.com/software/flashremoting. When installed, Flash Remoting will reside in a directory under c:\inetpub\wwwroot\flashremoting (in a typical IIS install).

Next, create a directory anywhere on your system for the application files. This directory will need to be enabled for Web sharing. In my example, I have shared the folder as netJournalFlash. Create a "bin" directory with write permissions within this directory to function as the local assembly cache. Now we copy a couple of files from the flashremoting directory to the new application directory. Copy the flashremoting/bin directory and the flashgateway.dll file, which is the server-side remoting gateway, to the bin directory of the new application. Also copy the Web.config file to the directory root.

The Web.config file contains one of the essential server-side requirements for Flash Remoting, a reference to the Flash Remoting assembly:


type="FlashGateway.
Controller.Gateway
Controller,
flashgateway" />

If the server receives a Web request containing AMF, it forwards this request to the Flash remoting assembly.

.NET Programming
The ASP.NET code in this example consists of two pages, productList.aspx and productData.aspx. To access data from an ASP.NET file and pass data to and from Flash files, a Flash Remoting custom server control must be used within the page. First, register the Flash gateway:

<%@ Register TagPrefix="MM" Namespace="FlashGateway"
Assembly="flashgateway" %>

The Flash control is added to the page with the following statement:

The Flash Remoting custom server controls contain three properties used to access variables passed to and from Flash:

- Flash.Params
- Flash.Result
- Flash.DataSource

The Flash.Params property is an array of parameters passed from Flash to the .NET application. The Flash.Result property is used to return data to Flash after the server-side processing has occurred. The Flash.DataSource property is used to bind .NET DataSets to Flash Remoting controls.

Let's take a look at the example files. When productList.aspx is invoked, a connection is made to a local Access database and a DataSet is retrieved consisting of the product ID and name for each product in the database. This DataTable is then bound to the Flash control using the control's DataSource property and DataBind() method.

myFlash.DataSource = myDataSet.Tables[0];
myFlash.DataBind();

ProductData.aspx is very similar to productList.aspx, except that it requires a parameter to be passed to it from the Flash client and returns the detailed listing for that single product. In this file, we first check to make sure that a parameter has been passed through the Flash Control, then make the connection to the datasource. The SQL query is then built, using the passed parameter to determine which product to select further data for:

string sqlQuery="SELECT description, location, price
FROM productData
WHERE pid=" + myFlash.Params[0].ToString();

And the resulting DataTable is bound to the Flash control as shown in productList.aspx, one of the source files.

Time for Some Action(Script)
Now that we've constructed our server-side .NET code, it's time to tackle the front-end Flash. Flash files are constructed on a timeline consisting of a number of layers. In our file, the top layer (as seen in the "Timeline" window) is titled "functions". When the first frame of this layer is selected, the code for this frame appears in the "Actions" panel. This frame is where all of our ActionScript code will reside. More information about programming in Flash can be found at: www.macromedia.com/support/flash. As mentioned earlier, the netservices layer is the client portion of the Flash Remoting model. The netservices layer is initiated in ActionScript with the following call:

NetServices.setDefaultGatewayUrl
("http://localhost/netjournal/gateway.aspx");
gatewayConnnection = NetServices.createGatewayConnection();
defaultService = "netJournalFlash";
flashService =gatewayConnnection.
getService(defaultService,this);

The gateway.aspx file is a blank ASP.NET file used only when developing in the Flash Authoring Environment. In production, the setDefaultGatewayURL is removed, and the gateway is supplied through a parameter in the HTML that embeds the SWF file in the Web page.

Once this connection is made, the remote .NET service methods may be accessed as if they were local Flash ActionScript resources. The service function we will use will reside inside the netJournalFlash application (or whatever you named your app), so we set our default service to netJournalFlash. To make a call to an ASP.NET page containing a remoting object we would like to invoke, a call to the service function is made, with the name of the ASP.NET page being the name of the method being called:

flashService.productList();

This function calls the productList.aspx page and waits for a response. When a response is received, Flash automatically forwards this response to a function with the name of the call followed by "_Result", in this case:

function productList_Result(result)

When the result is successfully received, this data is then bound to the Flash comboBox with the instance name "myCombo" using the Flash DataGlue ActionScript object, also included with Flash Remoting:

DataGlue.bindFormatStrings
(myCombo, result, "#title#", "#pid#");

with the line:

myCombo.setChangeHandler("loadImageData");

The comboBox has been set to execute the loadImageData function when an item has been selected.

In the function loadImageData, we call the productData.aspx page, passing the value of the product we would like to retrieve the data for:

flashService.productData(myCombo.getValue());

When the response is received by the productData.aspx page, it is automatically handled by the productData_result function. In this function, we set the price and description text fields to their respective values, as well as load the image associated with this product with the line:

theImage = "images/"+result.getItemAt(0).location;
loadMovie(theImage, imgHolder);

Line one creates a string variable named "theImage" and sets it to the images directory, followed by the first result's location column. Line two then loads this image into the imgHolder movieClip on the stage, and our Flash is complete!

Conclusion
As the demand for a more and more interactive Web user experience increases, the need for rich-client interfaces has increased exponentially. As you have seen in the example, the combination of .NET objects, Macromedia Flash Remoting, and Macromedia's Flash Player create a powerful rich-client interface capable of producing desktop-like applications in a Web browser interface.

More Stories By Ryan Moore

Ryan Moore is the lead software architect and a principal of Balance Studios Inc. (www.balancestudios.com) as well as epicsoft, Inc. (www.epicsoft.net) of Green Bay, WI. Ryan is a C# programmer and Certified Macromedia Flash Developer. Ryan currently maintains a weblog at http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/c/engineering/

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Eric Ball 03/17/05 01:30:13 PM EST

I am running thru your tutorial 'The Executable Internet'...this is what i have been looking for to shed some light on the FlashRemoting subject.

Do you have the products.mdb for download so that i can complete the tutorial and get a better understanding of how this works?

Thanks
Eric
Enviromed

@ThingsExpo Stories
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. Jack Norris reviews best practices to show how companies develop, deploy, and dynamically update these applications and how this data-first...
Intelligent Automation is now one of the key business imperatives for CIOs and CISOs impacting all areas of business today. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Boeggeman, VP Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, will talk about how business value is created and delivered through intelligent automation to today’s enterprises. The open ecosystem platform approach toward Intelligent Automation that Ayehu delivers to the market is core to enabling the creation of the self-driving enterprise.
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, will provide a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to ...
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.
Because IoT devices are deployed in mission-critical environments more than ever before, it’s increasingly imperative they be truly smart. IoT sensors simply stockpiling data isn’t useful. IoT must be artificially and naturally intelligent in order to provide more value In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Engineering System Architect at Greenwave Systems, will discuss how IoT artificial intelligence (AI) can be carried out via edge analytics and machine learning techn...
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution and join Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader, Sergey Grebnov, in his session at @ThingsExpo, for an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
Consumers increasingly expect their electronic "things" to be connected to smart phones, tablets and the Internet. When that thing happens to be a medical device, the risks and benefits of connectivity must be carefully weighed. Once the decision is made that connecting the device is beneficial, medical device manufacturers must design their products to maintain patient safety and prevent compromised personal health information in the face of cybersecurity threats. In his session at @ThingsExpo...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arvind Radhakrishnen discussed how IoT offers new business models in banking and financial services organizations with the capability to revolutionize products, payments, channels, business processes and asset management built on strong architectural foundation. The following topics were covered: How IoT stands to impact various business parameters including customer experience, cost and risk management within BFS organizations.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
From 2013, NTT Communications has been providing cPaaS service, SkyWay. Its customer’s expectations for leveraging WebRTC technology are not only typical real-time communication use cases such as Web conference, remote education, but also IoT use cases such as remote camera monitoring, smart-glass, and robotic. Because of this, NTT Communications has numerous IoT business use-cases that its customers are developing on top of PaaS. WebRTC will lead IoT businesses to be more innovative and address...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that App2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. App2Cloud is an online Platform, specializing in migrating legacy applications to any Cloud Providers (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud).
Recently, IoT seems emerging as a solution vehicle for data analytics on real-world scenarios from setting a room temperature setting to predicting a component failure of an aircraft. Compared with developing an application or deploying a cloud service, is an IoT solution unique? If so, how? How does a typical IoT solution architecture consist? And what are the essential components and how are they relevant to each other? How does the security play out? What are the best practices in formulating...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ayehu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ayehu provides IT Process Automation & Orchestration solutions for IT and Security professionals to identify and resolve critical incidents and enable rapid containment, eradication, and recovery from cyber security breaches. Ayehu provides customers greater control over IT infrastructure throu...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...