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The BEA WebLogic Platform

The BEA WebLogic Platform

This spring, BEA will deliver a new, unified application infrastructure platform. The new product name had not been announced as of this writing, so we refer to it here simply as the BEA WebLogic Platform.

The new platform represents an integration and extension of the current WebLogic suite of products. Its delivery is an important milestone and opportunity for the WebLogic developer community. This article provides an overview of the release of the BEA WebLogic Platform, describing the process of technology platform innovation and adoption, and the technology disruptions that enable the emergence of an application infrastructure platform. It also discusses the components that are being integrated into the platform, current plans for new integration features, some directions for BEA's platform strategy going forward, and what this means for WebLogic developers.

Technology Platform Innovation and Adoption
A technology platform is an extensible technology package that, through breakthroughs in functionality and ease-of-use, enables new types of solutions to pervasive business problems, and achieves massive adoption in the user community. It emerges when a new technology, or set of technologies, is created and becomes viable for volume usage. The essential innovation in the creation of the technology platform is the combination of these technologies in an easy-to-use package. This innovation becomes disruptive when a user community recognizes the extensibility of the package and its broad applicability to business applications. Killer applications drive mass adoption of the package and acceptance as a pervasive technology platform. Massive adoption leads to a positive feedback loop where an ecosystem of developers and technology partners enhance the value of the platform, further promoting its adoption by end-users and other developers and partners.

An example of the emergence of a technology platform is the emergence of the Windows desktop platform. In this case, technologies such as low-cost microprocessors, graphical user interfaces, and laser printing technologies were combined into affordable packages that made it easy for individuals working on desktop systems to create and edit content using a WYSIWYG interface, and print output on local printers. Desktop publishing became one of the killer applications that foreshadowed widespread adoption of PCs and Windows-based technologies in business. This was followed by creation of Windows-based productivity applications and development tools, delivery of thousands of Windows-based packaged and enterprise applications, and the massive adoption of Windows-based desktop systems as a technology platform over the past decade.

The BEA WebLogic Platform as THE Application Infrastructure Platform
The WebLogic Platform represents the emergence of an application infrastructure platform that is a disruptive innovation, offering explosive opportunities for enterprise developers and the software channel partner community. Our vision of an application infrastructure platform is a package that will enable all enterprise developers to build integrated, multi-tier applications more easily and rapidly. The ability to build highly reliable, available, and serviceable applications will be extended not only to professional developers with system programming and enterprise architecture expertise, but also to corporate developers who are less familiar with advanced system programming techniques and more comfortable with GUI-based development.

The application infrastructure platform will enable enterprises to deploy and manage these applications more easily. It will provide a tightly integrated package with the functionality required to solve enterprise business problems, creating a seamless experience for developers and administrators.

The platform will be widely adopted and inherently extensible, enabling significant opportunities for developers and partners to customize and extend it with value-added services. Developer and partner value-add will contribute to platform adoption, leading to further opportunities and a reinforcing cycle of massive adoption.

The time has come for the emergence of an application infrastructure platform. Some of the key technologies and standards required for the application infrastructure platform exist today - Java and J2EE for application development on a wide range of databases, operating systems, networking protocols, hardware vendors, and legacy systems; infrastructure technologies that provide for application reliability, availability, and serviceability; tools for the creation and management of portal applications and business process management; standards for enterprise application integration; and B2B integration. Combined with these technologies is the emergence of Web services for loosely coupled application integration, and GUI-based tools for development of Web services applications. These technologies, taken together, offer the promise of easy development of robust applications that meet enterprise business requirements and can run across diverse enterprise IT environments.

However, to achieve the massive adoption of a technology platform, these technologies and their functionality must be integrated in an easy-to-use package, so the developer can focus on application development rather than technology integration. The requirements of such a package are well known in the software industry. They include coexistence and interoperation of the software technologies provided in the package, physical packaging of the software into a single CD or download, a single installation program, a single licensing scheme, unified documentation, and a simple maintenance and release model. The integration of these technologies into a package that meets the above requirements is the disruptive innovation of the BEA WebLogic Platform.

Features and Components
The WebLogic Platform integrates the features provided by current WebLogic products, including new enhancements, into a single product. The current products will become platform components, and the platform will become the focus of new product development and design. In the first release, the functionality is the sum of the product components described below, plus the integration features summarized in the next section. Note that the platform components will remain orderable and installable as individual products, and will provide a seamless upgrade path for users of current product releases.

BEA WebLogic Server 7.0
The next version of BEA WebLogic Server is a major release of the product, incorporating major enhancements in areas such as Web services, performance, usability, J2EE support, enterprise messaging, security, and administration. The WebLogic Platform provides the foundation for WebLogic Server 7.0.

"Cajun," a new framework for the development of enterprise-class Web services applications (see Carl Sjogreen's article on page 10), is targeted at "applications developers" who prefer a GUI-based approach to application development. "Cajun" abstracts away complex system programming functions and enables developers to focus on solving business application functionality and enterprise resource integration issues. Applications developed using the "Cajun" framework leverage the BEA WebLogic Server 7.0 runtime environment. (A related article on WebLogic Server 7.0 is on page 22.)

BEA WebLogic Portal
WebLogic Portal is a product based on WebLogic Server for creating a variety of portals, including employee, consumer, and partner portals. It provides a comprehensive set of foundation services that simplify the creation of complex portal sites, help to improve the user experience, and enable measurement of targeted user interaction to achieve business success. Intelligent administration capabilities save time and give users quick access to resources they need. Integration services enable a single view of the visitor with profile information gathered from distributed sources.

BEA WebLogic Integration
BEA WebLogic Integration, based on WebLogic Server, delivers application integration, business process management, and B2B integration functionality for the enterprise. It provides a standards-based "build to integrate" approach that enables companies to deploy new applications, and integrate them with existing ERP, CRM, and MRP applications, streamline complex business processes and connect with business partners.

The WebLogic Platform treats the above products as components of an unsurpassed application infrastructure platform that provides:

  • Accessibility to developers with a range of system programming and architectural expertise
  • Leadership reliability, availability, and serviceability
  • Rich functionality, simplifying development of complex business applications
  • Support for a wide range of industry standards
  • Support for heterogeneous environments including a variety of hardware, operating systems, networking protocols, web servers, firewalls, and databases
  • Out-of-the-box integration, ease of use and developer productivity

    BEA WebLogic Platform Integration
    To a significant degree, the above products already represent a highly integrated offering. Both WebLogic Portal and WebLogic Integration are based on the WebLogic Server foundation, and include WebLogic Server as part of their product offerings. In addition to the natural integration provided by sharing a common foundation, BEA product integration testing ensures that these products coexist and interoperate. They share a common installation and licensing technology, a common look and feel in documentation, and a common support infrastructure.

    The enhancements provided in the WebLogic Platform represent an evolution of the existing integration provided by BEA, creating a more unified offering for developers, administrators, and partners. These integration features, described below, will be extended in future releases, along with functional enhancements to the software components, to ensure that the WebLogic Platform remains the leading application infrastructure platform in the industry.

    Interoperability and Coexistence
    The application infrastructure platform software development process ensures that platform software components can coexist and interoperate in integrated applications. Developers can use the platform to build applications that seamlessly leverage the services offered by the individual components. For example, a developer can build a portal that will run in a clustered environment with standards-based database access and messaging, leveraging the proven technologies offered by WebLogic Portal and WebLogic Server. The "Cajun" development framework can be used to build reusable Web services applications that are callable from the portal. The portal can also initiate workflows across packaged applications, or external trading partners, using features provided in WebLogic Integration. By using an integrated application infrastructure platform, developers can focus on building business logic and addressing business requirements, rather than integrating technology.

    Common Packaging
    The WebLogic Platform will be delivered as one set of software bits in a single software package. Users will be able to obtain the platform as a single Web download. BEA will also distribute the platform on a single CD, in a single physical package. Users won't be required to understand complex product combinations, and will not be required to order and physically procure multiple independent products that must be integrate a on target systems.

    Common Installation
    The entire application infrastructure platform offering will be installable via a single installation program. A typical installation will install all the platform software components, but users will be able to select individual platform components, or combinations of platform components to meet their individual business requirements.

    The installation program will be integrated into the download process, enabling installers to download only those components they require. The installation program will support flexible configuration of the software components, and upon completion of installation will introduce the user to the product. The out-of-the-box experience will be enjoyable, informative, and comprehensive, covering the full range of application infrastructure platform functionality.

    Common Licensing
    Use of application infrastructure platform components will be managed by a single license. The license will control usage of individual components, and, in some cases, usage of specific features offered by individual components. This provides a single point of control for management and administration of platform licenses, while enabling a rich functionality.

    Common Documentation
    For users wishing to explore topics such as installation, application development, deployment, administration, or security, the platform will provide an integrated view of documentation across software components and features. Easy navigation for particular topics will be provided, as well as integrated search capabilities and a common look and feel to facilitate development of applications that require use of multiple application platform components.

    Common Maintenance and Release Model
    The platform and its components will be maintained and upgraded as a single product offering. Service packs will combine maintenance of features across multiple components, with integration testing to ensure that platform components continue to interoperate and function together. Common upgrade and release migration policies will be applied to ensure predictable and manageable change as new features and functions are added.

    These features represent some of the more obvious integration points that will promote product ease-of-use during the out-of-the-box experience, during the development of sophisticated applications, and during long-term maintenance and support. Underlying these features is a detailed product technology integration "under the hood" that reflects the inherent extensibility being built into the platform and being leveraged through reuse of software components across the platform.

    Strategic Directions
    The first release of the WebLogic Platform represents a breakthrough for developers building enterprise applications and wishing to leverage rich, easy-to-use application infrastructure functionality. Going forward, developers can expect to see continued enhancements both to the functionality provided by each of the components, and the integration provided across the components. Some of these enhancements will include a greater commonality of look and feel across platform components and user touch points, tighter integration of security and administration across the platform, extension of the Workshop development environment to leverage additional functionality, and further integration of end-user tools to provide a common user experience.

    In particular, BEA will seek to extend the inherent extensibility provided in the WebLogic Platform. In addition to the obvious capability of building applications that run on the platform, example extensibility features provided in the release include the ability to plug in alternative Web servers; the ability to use alternative development tools; replaceable XML parsers; an application integration framework; a replaceable, pluggable security infrastructure; and an extensible administration infrastructure. These features and others have enabled the emergence of a robust ecosystem of developers and partners who add value to the platform. BEA intends to place even greater focus on extensibility features that can be leveraged for our own development, and that can also be leveraged by our developer and partner community.

    What This Means for the WebLogic Developer
    A major focus of our platform strategy is to enable and unleash the talents of the WebLogic developer community. The platform will not only reinforce the WebLogic product features and capabilities you are leveraging today, and support seamless migration from existing WebLogic products, but will also offer new opportunities for you to leverage and extend the value of the platform in the future.

    At a more detailed level, this means that BEA will provide you with the leading application infrastructure platform for a range of applications, from the most simple Web services application to the most complex application incorporating sophisticated end-user portals, high volume distributed transactions, composite Web services, complex workflows, and integration of existing enterprise applications or trading partner applications. BEA will make these capabilities accessible to a range of developers, from the corporate developer requiring easy-to-use visual programming tools to the professional developer seeking to optimize application design through use of sophisticated architectures, system programming techniques, and sophisticated programming APIs.

    On a strategic level, BEA's goal is to lead in the application infrastructure platform market. Enhancing the extensibility of the platform on an ongoing basis means a tremendous long-term opportunity for the WebLogic developer community.

  • More Stories By Will Lyons

    Will Lyons is a senior product manager for BEA Systems in the Servers and Integration Division and is the product manager for BEA's new application infrastructure platform product. He has been in product management with BEA since 1999, and has more than 15 years of experience in the information technology industry.

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