What are Flash Dashboards
Flash dashboards are simply business intelligence dashboards that employ macromedia flash to display and render charts and dashboard information within a browser environment. Flash dashboards are typically rendered using the actionscript language that is part of macromedia flash. While flash dashboards provide some benefits, mostly in the form of enhanced chart rendering and animation, there are also significant drawbacks to the flash dashboard including the need for plug-ins and a flash dashboard client under some circumstances.
Benefits of Flash Dashboards
The biggest benefits of flash dashboards can be summarized in two areas. First among the benefits of flash dashboards is the ability of actionscript to animate charts and provide a rich visual experience. The second benefit of flash dashboards is the ability of flash to provide ways for users to interact with charts, a popular new requirement for dashboards that seeks to gives users more control over how to work with dashboards.
Drawbacks of Flash Dashboards
While flash dashboards have some advantages they also provide significant drawbacks. The biggest drawback of flash dashboards is the overhead that flash places on the browser. In fact on some operating systems flash dashboards can render painfully slowly making them ideal for environments where flash is rendered quickly like Microsoft Windows. In some situations to speed up the operation of flash dashboards, a flash dashboard client may be employed, defeating the whole purpose with using flash dashboards, bypassing client software in exchange for using a browser for rendering.
Alternatives to Flash Dashboards
There are a number of alternatives to flash dashboards including AJAX dashboards and dashboards delivered in local applications. While flash dashboards were originally used to display animation and interactivity, new technologies are becoming available that are making the need for flash dashboards minimal since the animation and interactivity can be achieved without the use of flash. The two technologies that are primary alternatives have their own benefits and drawbacks as is outlined below.
Flash Dashboards vs. AJAX Dashboards
The biggest competitor to flash dashboards is the AJAX dashboard. New products like EMANIO's Context! business intelligence application render 100% of the user interface and content of the dashboard using AJAX and HTML. In the past this technique has been limited vs. flash dashboards in it's lack of animation and interactivity abilities. Over the past few years, however, AJAX dashboards have begun to rival flash dashboards for interactivity capabilities and animation without suffering the overhead and performance penalties that are suffered by flash dashboards. Beyond the performance advantages, AJAX based dashboards also much broader client-side compatibility than flash dashboards due to the fact that AJAX does not require any browser plugins to operate, unlike flash dashboards.