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My architect’s view is that there are two main factors that affect a decision on this type of development platform.

a)      How much on the leading edge do you want to be?

     I see Silverlight trailing behind Flex in innovation, but only initially, with the gapusually shortening over time in Microsoft catch-up fashion.

b)      What is your team’sdevelopment experience with Microsoft (or Adobe) web development platforms?

     You need expertise in the complete platform in order to squeeze the most out of the features available. An experienced team needs to be ready to create innovating new techniques to handle the limitations of an immature platform that will be frustrating to an inexperienced team.

 The biggest threat I see to using Flash /Flex is not Silverlight, but HTML5.    The advancement of HTML5 as it could eclipse the benefits more quickly as new innovations and the use of JavaScript plug-ins fills the needs of developers. 

If the delivery and support model of your product/project is

     a) To be delivered and supported within a 24 to 36 month timeframe

     b)  if it’s a specific tool that needs to be delivered  and not a whole platform (and local Air type implementations are not needed )

…..then Silverlight could meet the needs as well as Flash.

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  1. Gregorio Martinez
    I have several questions that I hope can get answered to support this debate.

    Are you comparing Silverlight to Adobe Air or Adobe Flex or both?

    Does Silverlight have a comparable solution to Adobe Air?

    Does Silverlight have an integration layer like Lifecycle Data Services for SAP and Non-SAP data integration?

    Does SAP have customers running Silverlight against the SAP backend?  We know Flash has several SAP backend implementations?

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    1. Sascha Kiefer
      As far as I know, you can’t compare Adobe Air and Flex this way. Flex is the programming language (or model, since the language itself is ActionScript). Air is more or less only the runtime environment, that allows Flex applications to run outside the browser (with elevated authorizations).
      Silverlight has a similar concept called OOB (out of browser) which allows you to install a Silverlight application like a normal app on your system (even though I have to admit, that Flex currently has more options. But with Silverlight 5 on the horizon, some new features will come as well).

      With respect to the LCDS (LiveCycle Data Services): The main advantage from my perspective is the streamlined communication protocol AMF, which brings huge performance improvements when it comes to mass data. But LDCS  is a product on its own and doesn’t come with Flex. Thus it needs to be licensed. I don’t know a product from MS which is specialized to that level, but they also have integration tools 😉
      But if you take that away Silverlight and Flex are even. Silverlight has the advantage that it’s fairly easy to consume the SAP Data Protocol and thus connect it to Gateway. I’m currently working on an internal prototype where we build a Silverlight Island and use the WebDynpro Context for data exchange. From a performance perspective it’s fast and fits perfectly in the programming model (especially when it comes to stateful sessions where you need locking and so on).

      When you look at SAP the whole Business By Design Frontend is build in Silverlight and since the backend is as SAP System, I think we have a huge customer base 😉 Yes I know, ByD is a bit of a different story but it also proves that you can build complex systems outside the Island Concept of WebDynpro. From an “ERP” integration perspective there is no difference if you use Flash Island or Silverlight Islands. The mechanisms are the same.

      Personally, knowing both Technologies, I like Silverlight (and .Net) much better than Flex. Flex is an Animation System where a programming language was attached to. Silverlight on the other hand is based on a proper programming language which was extended with great UI capabilities and animation. As a programmer you have to love Silverlight 😉

      I agree to Kevin when it comes to HTML5. It has huge potential. But as of today, building business apps with it doesn’t work the way I think one should build application nowadays. I also have my doubts with the “build once run everywhere” promise of HTML. It’s a standard and thus it’s very inflexible when it comes to changes and improvements (which might take years until it comes into the standard). But the world goes on and the consequence could be that every browser vendor build in it’s on features and interpretations and… (wait a minute, that sounds familiar). Frameworks like Flex and Silverlight are much more agile when it comes to changes and improvements. But who knows…

      Cheers,

      Sascha

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      1. Stephen Kringas
        Hi Sascha,

        I completely agree with your last point on HTML5. It obviously has great potential but I don’t think it’s agile enough to keep pace with apps requirements hence there will always be a need for plug-ins like Flash/Silverlight.

        Now for Flex vs Silverlight….

        Silverlight is dead 😉 Microsoft announced today with Windows 8 that HTML5/JavaScript is their focus for cross-platform apps.

        Flex also has greater reach across desktop/web/mobile(android, iOS, blackberry). Plus Adobe/SAP also recently announced a NetWeaver Gateway Plug-in for Adobe Flex Builder which will make it easier to consume SAP business data.

        Of course the main deciding factor is where you developers skill set is. 

        Cheers,
        Stephen

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        1. Sascha Kiefer
          Hi Stephan,

          yes, I have to admit MS did a really good job in scaring the community lately. On the other hand side, the Win8 demo is brand new and very preview. Who knows, what the result would be (but I guess HTML5 will play a vital role, though).
          I think they either do not know what their strategy is yet, or they have a brilliant plan/ strategy, they present the world with a big bang (and confuse it in the meanwhile 🙂

          I think (or hope for) a great tooling suite from MS, where I can do my business logic development in .Net, use Expression Blend for the UI (as I do today. XAML is comparable to JS when it comes to manually create complex UIs), and magically a HTML5 App is the result.
          There needs to be sth. like this in the future. Or can you imagine 15.000 SAP developers hacking the next ERP in Notepad?

          It’s also true, that there are examples in history, where not the best technology won (e.g. VHS vs. BETA 2000). Personally I think .NET is the better platform, but if things go wrong, I can live with Flash/ Flex as well 😉

          “Of course the main deciding factor is where you developers skill set is.”.
          As a developer I would absolutely agree. As a business driven developer unfortunately this is not always the case :-S

          Cheers,

          Sascha

          P.S.: There is an interesting discussion in the Silverlight forum going on about the “Is Silverlight dead?”-Topic: http://forums.silverlight.net/forums/p/230502/562113.aspx

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      2. Francesco Martire
        hi Sasha,

        about your Silverlight Island based prototype, I wonder where the Silverlight instance resides at runtime: does it need to reside inside a SAP Portal/NWBC environment or can it reside in an ASP.NET based application?

        thank you,

        Francesco

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