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Chapter 28. Working with Middleware

No one tool can do all things. Few tools that perform multiple tasks do each with equal efficiency. Flash is good at presentation, interactivity, and even data manipulation.

However, there is more that you could be doing and other systems that you could be integrating.

Because it is controlled by a browser plug-in, a Flash movie by itself cannot communicate with software on a server. Excluding Extensible Markup Language (XML), the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the only communication method that a Flash SWF can leverage. Most server components don’t use this protocol, so they are beyond the reach of a Flash movie. Some server applications, however, have the ability to communicate using many different protocols, including HTTP. These applications have a flexibility that enables developers to leverage them as translators between Flash and server applications and systems.

These types of server applications are generically grouped as middleware. Active Server Pages (ASP), PHP (which originally was an acronym for Personal Home Page tools), ColdFusion, and JavaServer Pages (JSP) are four commonly used middleware technologies. At their root, they all perform the same basic function. They embed instructions within a Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) document, causing dynamic data to interoperate with static text. Typically, input from the user is translated and sent to access data from a database before a customized page is built on the fly and sent back to the user’s browser.

In this chapter, you will learn to do the following:

  • Examine how middleware languages extend the reach of Flash applications. Using middleware as translators between Flash and server applications and systems extends the possible sources of data that a Flash movie is capable of accessing. With this configuration, Flash can access data storage and retrieval relational database management systems (RDBMSs), file systems, email servers, Windows applications and components, Java components, and JavaBeans.

  • Compare popular middleware languages. The language you end up usingmight be influenced by the operating system or hardware platform the technology supports, the programming language the commands and syntax use, or even just what language is available and free. Each is capable of adding flexibility and power to a Flash application. Each option carries with it a cost, however, in terms of budgetary expense, learning curves, developer support, or server operating requirements.


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