In the August 2007 edition of Linux Magazine, the editor contributes an article about the usefulness of integrating PHP with the free Flex SDK to achieve a Rich Internet Application (RIA) in a Web 2.0 world.

Flex and PHP
by Martin Streicher
Linux Magazine (full article available online with free registration)


The author begins by a short comparison of the RIA technologies of AJAX vs. Flex, and goes on to suggest that while AJAX is touted as an alternative to Flex UI's, AJAX suffers from a lack of rich media integration such as video, music, or animations and carries the risk of varying JavaScript behavior across different browser implementations.

The article does a great job describing architectural differences between classic web applications and RIAs. In a multi-tiered Rich Internet Application the application server technology such as PHP, or better yet ColdFusion, acts as the controller to implement business logic and interacts with deeper service layers that interface with the database. However, on the client side, Flex runs in the browser to perform data input validation, displays data visually via drill-down charts and graphs or via paginated data grids, and provides real time updates to changes in data (via Live Cycle Data Services a.k.a. Flex Data Services).

Furthermore, Flex provides a smart looking user interface and seamless user experience akin to typical desktop software while lacking the notoriously painful white screens of death during page refreshes that are commonplace in the Web 1.0 world. In effect, more work is done in the browser as a means of distributed computing, leaving the application server to focus on business logic and freeing it from having to generate the UI again and again across requests.

[More]