Five Reasons to Use Adobe FLEX for Your Next Web Mapping Application

I am often asked why we use Adobe FLEX so often for the presentation tier of the web mapping applications we develop at PenBay.  There are a lot of good reasons and I will outline my top five reasons in this post.


Health Care Status Mapping Application Health Care Status Mapping Application

We try very hard to be technology agnostic as we begin a relationship with a new customer.  In my experience, the choice of a technology platform for a customer be it .NET, vs. .JSP, or Oracle vs. MS SQL Server has a lot more to do with the capabilities of the IT staff at the customer site than anything else.  So we start out our discussions on new projects with discussions about requirements.  Requirements discussions will touch issues of authentication and entitlement, performance, reliability, scalability, work flow support, look & feel, and interactivity.   We then try to reconcile each of these types of requirements with a technical architecture that we have confidence will be able to deliver a killer application for this client opportunity.  Nine times out of ten, we end up choosing Adobe FLEX for the presentation tier.  Why?


  1. Interactivity in the interface.  The whole history of FLASH/FLEX of course is in the area of creating motion, interactivity, and overall coolness in the presentation tier of web applications.  The ability to quickly create highly interactive, highly intuitive interfaces with FLASH/FLEX is unlike any other technology we have tried over the years.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of DESIGN when creating web applications.  FLASH/FLEX gives us tremendous design power and flexibility.

  2. Client-side Vector Rendering.  Being able to render vector features in the client is an incredibly powerful tool when developing web mapping applications.  It means that you can implement features like query, identify, measure, and dynamic symbology all within the client with no requests back to the server.  The responsiveness, performance, and interactivity implications of this are huge.

  3. Cross-browser stability.  Anyone who has developed in JavaScript for any period of time and has been frustrated in how different browsers on different platforms variably interpret (or don’t) JavaScript will immediately understand how important this is.  If you have the right version of the FLASH player, these applications just work regardless of browser or platform.  This fact dramatically reduces the amount of testing and debugging that needs to be done before production roll out.

  4. Performance.  To quote my friend Steve Segarra, CTO of Archibus, "Nothing is as important in systems architecture design as elegance….  Except PERFORMANCE".  By combining the capabilities of client-side vector rendering with intelligent base map design and tile cacheing, you can create web mapping applications that just plain smoke.  Very important.

  5. ESRI FLEX ADF.  If you are using ESRI ArcGIS Server, you should know about the FLEX ADF that is one of three Application Development Frameworks (ADF) developed and supported by ESRI.  Mansour (see his blog here) and his team have done an outstanding job in creating an ADF for FLEX that is powerful, flexible, stable, and performs extremely well.  By leveraging the ESRI FLEX ADF you can get very elegant web applications up and running very quickly.

Because of the reasons I have mentioned above (and many others) there is tremendous interest in FLASH/FLEX from the ESRI developer community.  At last year's ESRI Developer Summit in Palm Springs, the (unplanned) session on the FLEX ADF was the best attended of any session I saw.  If you are planning a new web mapping application for your organization, I encourage you to consider FLASH/FLEX.  I think you will be impressed.