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Web Services & WebLogic

Web Services & WebLogic

The Web services world is currently cluttered with code-intensive solutions that require intimate knowledge of lower-level protocols to successfully deploy applications as Web services. Much like the initial situation of the World Wide Web, when a detailed knowledge of the HTML specification was crucial to successful publishing, Web services is mired in UDDI, WSDL, and SOAP. These protocols are important, but just as Notepad was replaced (at least for most developers) by more productive tools such as Dreamweaver, or even FrontPage, so is the landscape of Web services evolving with tools that support higher productivity development of Web services.

With the bundling of WebLogic Workshop along with WebLogic Server 7.0, it's clear that BEA considers Web services to be an integral part of the J2EE server landscape. And now there are several ways to accomplish this with J2EE. First of all, there's the traditional method of development that includes the creation of EJB objects combined with some simple wrapper development to encapsulate the EJB and expose it as a Web service available via SOAP and HTTP. Not much work; after all, a JSP application does almost the same thing, minus the SOAP handling. And in fact Web services will be part of the JDK specification in the next release.

WebLogic Workshop provides a development tool that's an alternative to the pure Java approach of creating EJBs and exposing them. It starts from the perspective of a Web service and generates the Java code needed to support the service deployment into the EJB container. Rather than focusing on code creation, it focuses on application assembly using EJBs and JMS queues as components.

This approach provides some advantage to the Edge developers - those concerned with exposing APIs to external consumers via Web services. It is often the case that these developers do more of an organizational task than a development one - organizing and stringing together various components into a service, rather than developing the components themselves. That's because the Edge developer's task is exposing interfaces and APIs rather than coding the business logic of an organization. For these developers, the graphical nature of WebLogic Workshop outweighs the power of a pure Java IDE such as JBuilder because it provides more of the appropriate functionality for assembly.

And while that's good, WebLogic Workshop still needs to go another mile or two before it is the essential tool for Web services development. Within the WebLogic family, the business rules functionality is implemented using WebLogic Integration, but does not carry over into WebLogic Workshop at all. You must still write code to develop business logic.

That's unfortunate, because this separation currently robs WebLogic Workshop of badly needed Web services functionality - orchestration and integration. For the moment, coding the interaction is all well and good, but the real power of WebLogic Workshop won't be unleashed until the ability to orchestrate a Web service using BPEL4WS (which should be part of Integration in the near future) exists. And not just in WebLogic Integration but also in WebLogic Workshop. While it's understandable that there will be a need for a standalone BPM product such as WebLogic Integration, it would be much more useful and helpful if that product (or at least a subset of its functionality) were a part of WebLogic Workshop, so that the full power of the rules engine could be leveraged in every Web service design. We need more in WebLogic Workshop - we need deep support for Web services, and that has to include orchestration. We also need support for transactions, and a better security structure tied to Web services security and SAML.

More Stories By Sean Rhody

Sean Rhody is the founding-editor (1999) and editor-in-chief of SOA World Magazine. He is a respected industry expert on SOA and Web Services and a consultant with a leading consulting services company. Most recently, Sean served as the tech chair of SOA World Conference & Expo 2007 East.

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