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BEA WebLogic Workshop 8.1

BEA WebLogic Workshop 8.1

Last year, BEA introduced WebLogic Workshop, a revolutionary product based on declarative annotations that took away most of the pain and aggravation of developing J2EE-based Web services on the WebLogic Application Server platform. Not being satisfied with just Web services, BEA extended this technology, with WebLogic Workshop 8.1, to include Web applications, portals, and other J2EE integration- based applications.

New Features
For development of loosely coupled applications that can maintain their public contract while underlying data structures change, Workshop 8.1 includes support for XML Schema and XQuery Mapping. Based on the XQuery XML standard, the visual mapping tool allows you to map XML elements to Java data elements with simple point-and-click operations (see Figure 1). In addition to straight one-to-one mapping, you can also use a number of built-in XQuery functions such as "concat," allowing you to combine various fields into one. All of the hard work of handling the complex data transformations is performed automatically.

In addition to XQuery, Workshop 8.1 provides support for XMLBeans, a strongly typed Java object interface for XML data that allows a developer to manipulate raw XML data using the productivity and flexibility benefits of the Java language.

Java Controls
WebLogic Workshop 8.1 includes a number of new Java Controls to help you connect to various IT assets, including FTP, e-mail, Tuxedo, Portal, and Integration Controls. Remember that as a developer, interacting with a Java Control is as easy as setting properties and handling events. The control itself handles all the hard parts, especially important as you begin to interface with more complex products such as Tuxedo.

Developing Java Controls is easy using Workshop's visual development environment. For those not familiar with it, Java Controls provide a simplified interface for accessing information from external resources, including databases, external Web services, and EJB components. A Java Control provides familiar interfaces, including methods, events, and property settings. A Java Control, similar to a JavaBean, can be dropped into an application or Web service on the Visual Workshop IDE. Controls can be used in any platform and are easily reusable, thereby optimizing developer efficiency. All the developer needs to do is link the application logic to the control. In addition to the standard list of controls for database access, EJBs, and so on. Workshop now allows you to create your own custom controls for proprietary legacy applications, opening the door for custom third-party vendors to develop and sell Java Controls.

Framework Extensions
WebLogic Workshop also includes framework extensions for developing portal and advanced workflow-based applications that work in conjunction with WebLogic Portal 8.1 and WebLogic Integration 8.1, providing WebLogic developers with a single IDE for a variety of application types.

Web Service Improvements
WebLogic Workshop 8.1 now supports both RPC and document-literal Web services, including support with WS-Security making it easy to integrate with .NET-based Web services. Here I couldn't resist. Using the Order Entry Service example that comes with Workshop, I fired up Microsoft Visual Studio .NET and was quickly able to create a .NET client for the Workshop example and execute the service from a .NET ASP application. Amazingly, it all took under 5 minutes and worked the first time.

Java Pageflow View
One of the major new changes to Workshop is the introduction of a visual development interface for Java Pageflow (JPF) files. Based on the Struts model-view-controller (MVC) architecture, the visual interface allows you to see the flow of a Web application including user action decision flow and business logic. Tag libraries and drag-and-drop wizards are included to help you bind information on each page to external data sources, including databases, Web services, and Java controls. Workshop automatically provides support for sessions and state management, making this one serious development IDE. Gone are the days when all of your JSP files were thrown into a jumbled directory heap.

IDE Improvements
For those of us who need all the help we can get when coding and debugging our Java code, WebLogic Workshop 8.1 comes with a number of IDE improvements to help us identify and correct troublesome code. I especially like the red lines on the editor's vertical scroll bar that identifies the location of coding errors.

The WebLogic Workshop 8.1 IDE is well organized and provides you with various views, editors, property panels, etc., to assist you in your development work (see Figure 2). When using prebuilt Java Controls to your back end, you can literally create a Web service as fast as you can drag and drop Java Controls and methods in the design view panel.

What makes Workshop so powerful is that at any time you can compile, deploy, and test your code, all from the same IDE - allowing for an iterative "write-and-run" approach to development. This is something that would not be possible in the iterative sense if you had to handle all of the configuration and deployment details yourself. One aspect of the test browser that I thought might have been improved on for this release is having Workshop automatically create a test form for the Web service request. You still have to manually edit a skeleton version of the SOAP request in an edit box, something that can be rather tedious and error prone, especially if the number of parameters in the request grows.

Platform Support
WebLogic Workshop 8.1 is supported on both Windows 2000 and XP operating systems. For Linux users, it is also supported on Red Hat Advanced Server 2.1. For Sun Microsystems 8 and 9 and HP-UX 11.0 and 11i, only runtime versions (deployed application and Web services) are supported.

WebLogic Workshop 8.1 increases the productivity level of your development team by handling most of the hard-core J2EE "plumbing" work. Using BEA best practices, Workshop performs EJB configuration and deployment, JMS setup and configuration, and other tedious and unexciting activities associated with J2EE development. All of this work takes plenty of CPU and memory, so make sure that your development workstation is up-to-date.

Installation
As usual, installation was very straightforward, although I forgot for the umpteenth time what I entered for the admin password. Make sure you jot it down; it's not as easy to recover the password as it used to be.

Conclusion
BEA WebLogic Workshop 8.1 is a powerful tool for developing sophisticated J2EE-based applications requiring integration with Web service-based assets both within the enterprise and abroad. Workshop 8.1 allows anyone with minimal Java coding skills to do some fairly complex J2EE development. Its power and ease of use take most of the drudgery out of J2EE development, and present a new level of competition for completing architectural platforms that make a similar claim - specifically Visual Studio .NET.

SIDEBAR

Company Information:
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 Information:
Free one-year development subscription at
http://dev2dev.bea.com/subscriptions/index.jsp

Testing Environment:
OS: Windows-XP
Hardware: 1GHZ Athlon, 1G RAM

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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