Archive for November, 2008

What the heck is a Solution Accelerator?

Is the Solution Accelerator Program yet another marketing program to convince someone that we have the solution you need? Or, is it just a bunch of “business-speak” and catch phrases that describe some esoteric application? Well… OK, there is some of that :). However, there is much more to Adobe’s Solution Accelerator program. The reality is that, believe it or not, Adobe has been in the Enterprise business for over a decade. One would think that we have learned a thing or two about implementing solutions with our own technology. Capturing that experience, know-how and technology is exactly what this program is about.

No matter how you dice it, applications that people have built and continue to build on the LiveCycle platform often have common requirements and implementation patterns. And without any coordinated effort to at least identify and document these patterns, the reality is that we end up re-creating the wheel each time a LiveCycle solution is built. For example, many of our customers have custom letter generation requirements – where someone can choose paragraphs from a catalog (or even author some freehand) and generate a custom letter to be rendered in PDF. With LiveCycle’s unique ability to render, assemble and manipulate documents,  it becomes a natural fit for such a scenario. The reality is that LiveCycle is a multi-purpose SOA-based platform designed to do so much more than just one scenario. Therefore, you need to build an interface for your application that will enable users to select their paragraphs, you need to create dynamic document templates that react based on the content being injected, etc. Hmmm… there must be someone that has done something like that before!!! Indeed, and we have created a Solution Accelerator that addresses this scenario specifically. In addition, there are Solution Accelerators for other applications like approval workflows, and selection & capture as well.

So now you are asking yourself – what is actually provided in these Solution Accelerators? Good question! Each Solution Accelerator offers a Project Development Kit (PDK) and a Solution Guide. The Solution Guide contains the “business-speak” and catch phrases I mentioned before. The PDK is basically a ZIP file that contains all kinds of developer treats such as frameworks, application models, templates, Flex-based user interfaces, etc. Basically, everything you need to quickly implement the solution. There is also documentation and source provided to kick-start developers to customize or even extend the application bits.

SA-Content-Creator-M2

This screenshot is from the Content Creator application built in Flex. This is a perfect example of some of the valuable assets a developer can find in the Solution Accelerators. A sexy interface built on top of a robust and extensible application model that meets the specific needs of a specific application scenario. Ultimately, the Solution Accelerator bridges the gap between general purpose off the shelf software like LiveCycle ES and the specific needs of real-life solutions. Does that mean there will be no customization required? Of course not. There is no “one size fits all” application to solve all same-class problems. You will need to tweak and extend the Solution Accelerator to meet your specific requirements.

Sounds pretty good? Well let’s be honest, it’s not perfect. This is a new program and contrary to what we would like to believe, we won’t get it exactly right the first time. For example, the documentation in the PDK is not exactly where it should be – it’s not bad, it just needs to mature as we get feedback. That’s what’s cool about the development process we have adopted for the Solution Accelerators – an iterative development cycle. The Solution Accelerators are not tied to specific LiveCycle ES release cycles, they are developed separately and are regularly refreshed with updates to documentation, added features and templates, etc. One thing that should be noted is that the Solution Accelerators will not be localized. The objective is to provide the application building blocks that can be assembled into a final solution – not the complete solution itself.

My call to action for you is to have a look at the current Solution Accelerators that are posted. Download them and play around – you never know, there is something in there that could make your life so much easier. If you have comments, feedback, questions, or you just need a friend, then log on to the Solution Accelerator forums.