Project of the Month, February 2009

ZK – Simply Ajax and Mobile


Project Leader:

Tom Yeh

Tom Yeh

Experience: Network Computing, ERP, Web 2.0

Education: Master’s Degree, Electrical Engineering, National Taiwan University

Key Developer:

Henri Chen

Henri Chen

Experience: Network Computing, Embedded Systems, Database Systems

Education: Master’s Degree, Computer Engineering, University of Southern California

Why did you place the project on SourceForge.net?

Because SourceForge.net is the largest open source host in the world. Also, it’s free and provides many useful tools for running a project such as tracking systems and forums.

How has SourceForge.net helped your project succeed?

SourceForge.net provided us the chance to be known by the world. The community driven events, Most Active Project Rankings (too bad it’s not on the front page anymore), news releases, and the Community Choice Awards bring a lot of traffic to our website.

The number one benefit of using SourceForge.net is:

Free and unlimited bandwidth and storage.

Project name: ZK – Simply Ajax and Mobile

Date founded/started: November 2005

Project page: http://sourceforge.net/projects/zk1

Description of project:

ZK is the most proven Ajax + Mobile framework designed to maximize enterprises operation efficiency and minimize the development cost. With groundbreaking Direct RIA architecture, ZK simplifies and speeds the creation, deployment and maintenance of rich Internet applications.

Why and how did you get started?

In 1994, we developed an accounting system for Windows; and in 2000, we developed another accounting system for J2EE. After coaching and watching the development of both systems, we found that developing a Web application requires much higher programming skills and costs.

We started wondering whether it is intrinsic, or the programming model is simply inadequate. Looking back, the success of desktop applications in 1990s and the event-driven, component-based programming model played a big role. Being blessed with the ease to learn and develop, it became the standard and the best way to handle interactive and responsive user interfaces. So we came up the idea of applying this model to Web applications, and ZK was born.

Who is the software’s intended audience?

Software developers who are looking for a cost-effective way to build an enterprise Ajax web application for delivering rich and engaging user experiences.

What are a couple of notable examples of how people are using your software?

ZK empowers a wide variety of companies and institutions, ranging from small to large in multiple industries as well as in governments. For example:

The 3D CSI, by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), is a ZK-enabled platform-independent command-and-control software suite for the U.S. Department of Energy. The project won the Creative Use of Java Technology End to End in 2007 Duke’s Choice Awards.

Taiwan Futures Exchange, one of the top 18 futures exchanges in the world, recently launched the next generation Web Transaction Monitoring System (WTMS) with ZK to monitor 40,000 transactions per second for assuring a total amount of 2 billion dollars trading per day.

What are the system requirements for your software, and what do people need to know about getting it set up and running?

For end users: ZK runs on web browsers or mobile devices. No installation or plug-in is required.

For developers: a web server is required.

What gave you an indication that your project was becoming successful?

The project ranked #1 at SourceForge.net six months after release. We didn’t believe it until our server went down because of the huge amount of visitor traffic!

What has been your biggest surprise?

Boeing, the largest aircraft manufacture, contacted us a few months after ZK beta was released, when we had only 2 developers and a dog.

What has been your biggest challenge?

We’ve always been trying to do the right thing at the right time. There are just too many new features in ours and our users’ list. To raise the priority of some features means to lower some others. Making the right decision is a challenge.

Why do you think your project has been so well received?

A good combination of superior architecture, feature-rich widgets, seamless back-end integration, low learning curve, and a loyal and friendly community.

What advice would you give to a project that’s just starting out?

First you should come out with a good architecture as a solid foundation, and respond to user requirements and environment changes fast.

Where do you see your project going?

2009 is a very important year for ZK. Currently we are working on the next generation, called ZK 5. It will enable offline computing and leverage client-side resources, particularly for mobile solutions.

Also we will put more effort on ZK Studio such that ZK Studio becomes not only a WYSIWYG visual designer, but also a complete RAD tool which boosts productivity from UI design to database access, to web services, to web flow, and even to UML.

What’s on your project wish list?

ZK runs on every web server!

What are you most proud of?

We receive many “thank you” emails from our users.

If you could change something about the project, what would it be?

Nothing. Working with open source itself is just fun!

How do you coordinate the project?

We use SourceForge.net’s tracker system to manage feature requests and bugs. In addition to in-house testing, we publish “experimental releases” prior to the formal release so the community can participate in the field test before each release.

How many hours a month do you and/or your team devote to the project?

Most of us work full-time for ZK.

What is your development environment like?

Most of our developers use Java SDK, Tomcat, Eclipse IDE, ZK Studio, Firefox, and Notepad++ for development and debugging.

Milestones:

Date Description
January 2009 Reached 900,000 downloads
September 2008 ZK 3.5 released
August 2008 WYSIWYG visual designer ZK Studio released
November 2007 Reached 500,000 downloads
May 2006 Ranked #1 most active project on SourceForge.net
November 2005 ZK 1.0 beta released (first public release)

How can others contribute?

We have Wiki-based documents where everyone can share his developing experiences. Also there is a forum where everyone can post questions and offer help to others.


Check out our previous projects of the month.