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BEA WebLogic Workshop

BEA WebLogic Workshop

Once upon a time, back before the turn of the century, there was a buzzword in the industry called CASE - computer-aided software engineering. In a nutshell, CASE would take the various models and requirements gathered by software analysts and automatically generate production-ready application code. At the time, the concept had me scared to death. The idea, of course, was that if you could get the software to write all the code, you wouldn't need any programmers. Luckily, the idea fizzled out like most of the crazes to hit the industry. Or did it?

Software has become so complex that it's increasingly difficult to develop and maintain the literally hundreds of modules and configuration settings that comprise today's sophisticated Web application. Try to deploy the application as a Web service, and the problem compounds itself with all the SOAP-related XML protocols. It seems as though we mere mortals cannot grasp the entire picture alone, and those of us who have managed to get such a system into production spend a good part of our time plugging up the holes in the software dike. Luckily, help is on the way in the form of software tools and products that not only assist us in the overall design and development of Web services, but do most of the heavy lifting for us when it comes to configuration and deployment. This is what BEA Workshop is all about.

Architectural Overview
In order to fully appreciate the power behind Workshop, you need to know a bit about Java Web Services (JWS), an up-and-coming standard in the J2EE world. Similar to how Java code is embedded in a JSP file, Java code contained within a JWS file is interpreted by the application server and deployed as a fully functioning Web service.

JWS allows you to take a standard method call in a Java class and, by adding one or more JavaDoc-based annotations, instruct the application server to expose the method as a Web service port, taking care of all of the details.

Another important feature of the JWS standard is XML mapping. Unlike some Web service integration products that do not expose the XML too readily, Workshop allows you to bind an element in the SOAP message directly to a method parameter. This allows the service to maintain its public contract (the underlying SOAP interface) while making changes to the implementation. For a good introduction, see the article "JWS: Web Services in Java" in the April 2002 issue of WSJ (Vol. 2, issue 4).

Workshop comes with an integrated development environment - a Design View - that contains a visual representation (see Figure 1) of the Web service, a runtime framework, control architecture, XML mapping facility, integrated testing and debugging, and more. Using the underlying JWS architecture, Workshop allows developers to create and deploy Web services just by creating and configuring objects in a "painter-like" interface. Within the Design View, you set up one or more public interfaces for the Web service and connect various control interfaces to EJB components, database objects, etc., to the service. The underlying Java code you write integrates the various control interfaces into a functioning Web service (see Figure 2). You only need the JWS file for your code. A knowledge of DO programming is not necessary.



The beta version I used for this review came bundled with a pre-release version of the BEA WebLogic Server 7.0 and WebLogic Builder, which is a graphical tool for configuring and deploying J2EE application modules.

Building a Web Service
Building and deploying your Web service is easy and seamless. Initiate the build and you're only a few seconds away from testing the interface in the test harness. If all goes well when you compile the JWS file (i.e., no coding errors on your part), the process of building and deploying a service to the WebLogic server is automatic and works each and every time.

Long Live the Transaction
Out of the box, Workshop provides you with the ability to easily set up and manage long-lived, asynchronous transactions. Transaction state and management is maintained by the Workshop JWS framework, so there isn't much you need to do to set one up. To start a conversation, just set up the appropriate property values in the Design View. Parts of the Web service need to run single threaded? No problem. Using the properties pane, just configure a JMS messaging queue into the SOAP operation and you're done. The underlying JWS framework will do all the work for you in a J2EE-compliant manner.

First Impressions
The first thing that hits you when you look at the Design View is how clean and visually appealing the GUI design is. It's one of those products that cause you to mutter "cool" under your breath when you first see it. The GUI design is well organized and very intuitive to use. The complete development cycle is quick and seamless in operation. You can easily run through a complete test cycle in under a minute.

Workshop has the potential to be a very powerful tool in the development and deployment of large and complex Web services, where you can literally see how a Web service fits together and works. Combined with the new release of WLS, it becomes a very impressive platform indeed.


BEA Systems, Inc.
2315 North First Street
San Jose, CA 95131
Tele: 1.800.817.4232
Web: www.bea.com
E-mail: [email protected]

Download Info:

Test Environment:
OS: Windows-XP
Hardware: Dell Inspiron 8000

More Stories By Joe Mitchko

Joe Mitchko is the editor-in-chief of WLDJ and a senior technical specialist for a leading consulting services company.

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