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A Guided Tour of the WebLogic E-Business Platform

A Guided Tour of the WebLogic E-Business Platform

Those who understand e-business know that the Internet has forever changed the business world. More and more successful companies are harnessing and exploiting the power of the Internet to maintain a competitive advantage.

Although e-business offers great opportunities, it also demands fundamental changes in the way business is conducted, especially in terms of the following:

  • Using the Internet for advertising, sales, and customer support
  • Presenting a new form of direct customer relations
  • Providing new roles for intermediaries
  • Implementing major changes in products and services

Building e-business using the latest tools and technologies and integrating them with existing applications is a major challenge faced by most businesses. There is a demand for tools and products to help bridge the new world of Web-based solutions to the ancient mainframe applications.

This chapter provides a brief introduction to various e-business products available from BEA, such as eLink, WebLogic Portal with personalization and commerce services, WebLogic TUXEDO, and WebLogic Java Adapter for Mainframe.

WebLogic eLink
To understand this product, you should know a thing or two about Enterprise Application Integration (EAI). EAI products leverage enterprise application transaction platforms to integrate existing legacy applications with customer-focused (business-to-customer, or B2C) and e-commerce (business-to-business, or B2B) initiatives. Typically, organizations have already been running legacy applications for decades. In response to the Web revolution and the availability of Web-based applications to deliver services to clients, they might need to integrate back-end legacy systems with new advances to perform rapid requests for information. EAI makes that possible. WebLogic eLink is just one of BEA's seamless solutions for integrating legacy systems with new Web-based applications.

The BEA eLink family offers two solutions for these integration needs: eLink Platform and eLink Foundation (see Figure 1). The eLink Platform provides support for eLink adapters to customers with lower EAI requirements. BEA adapters provide access to external enterprise applications, such as Customer Resource Management (CRM, including Vantive, Siebel, and Clarify); Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP, including SAP R/3, PeopleSoft, and Oracle); mainframe applications (including CICS, IMS, any SNA peer, Unisys OS 2200, Unisys MCP/AS, or any system that supports Open Group XATMI over OSI TP); and billing applications, including Portal. eLink Foundation is for customers who have more complex EAI scenarios to handle.

WebLogic Express
WebLogic Express is a WebLogic Server product with limited facilities, as compared to the full-blown WebLogic Server software. It can be used to host Web pages; to implement Java applications such as applets, servlets, and Java Server Pages (JSPs); to generate contents dynamically; and to let applications communicate with databases using the Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) implementation. It also provides Remote Method Invocation (RMI) functionality. Unlike WebLogic Server, WebLogic Express does not support EJBs, Java Messaging Service (JMS), and the two-phase commit protocol for the transactions. WebLogic Express is a scalable platform that serves dynamic contents and data to Web applications and wireless applications. It provides a Web container but not a Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) container.

BEA WebLogic Portal 4.0
Prior to WebLogic Portal 4.0, separate tools were used for portal development, commerce services, personalization services, and campaign management. Now WebLogic Portal puts all of these Web applications in one package. This makes for a better product with rock-solid integration between functionalities and services. Figure 2 shows Portal server facilities.

Portal Services
Portal
is a term used to describe a World Wide Web site proposed to be a major starting site for users, or one that users tend to visit as an anchor site. Portals are categorized as general portals and specialized or niche portals. Some major portals include Yahoo!, Excite, Netscape, CNET, Microsoft Network, and America Online. Niche portals include Garden.com (for gardeners), Fool.com (for investors), and SearchNetworking.com (for network administrators).

A portal can also be considered a network service that provides access to various heterogeneous network services that are local and remote, structured and unstructured. Such network services might typically include resource discovery services, e-mail access, and online discussion forums.

Portals such as MSN, shown in Figure 3, make use of contents provided by their partners, and they keep users on their sites by providing content and services.

Portals typically include special functionality called resource discovery; the user can potentially search for various information or products, such as travel information, weather information, latest music albums, and so on. Figure 4 shows some examples of resource discovery interfaces.

WebLogic Portal is built on the WebLogic E-Business platform and is designed to help lower the cost involved in accessing the information, applications, and business processes for enterprises, customers, and business partners. WebLogic Portal simplifies the creation of personalized and sophisticated portal sites by providing a user interface framework, prebuilt presentation elements, and templates.

E-Commerce Services
One of the most popular Internet myths is that running an online store is simple: all the customer has to do is point, click, and buy. However, the reality is that carrying out a successful e-commerce venture is far more complex than developing and maintaining another type of Web site.

You must consider many elements when developing an online store. Your Web site needs to provide customers with information about your products. A payment-processing system must be in place-not to mention a way to calculate taxes properly-and all of this on top of providing customers with the kind of personalized service that will keep them coming back. This is where BEA WebLogic Portal 4.0 with e-commerce services can come into play. WebLogic Portal 4.0 provides a built-in set of commerce templates that developers can use to build e-commerce Web sites easily and effectively, including a products catalog, order processing system, tax calculation method, payment processing structure, and registration.

Personalization Services
By personalization, we mean that the individuals involved in Web content development have the capacity to tailor an application to a particular individual or a group of individuals in an organization. The customization depends on predefined user attributes, such as age or gender. In this scenario, individual customers can set up their own profiles, and the content delivery to the individuals accessing the Web site will depend on each user's particular profile. The core benefit of personalized services is that a complete solution can be developed rapidly that allows your business to extend its competitive advantage, accelerate response time to customers, and meet market demands. WebLogic Portal 4.0 provides personalized services that can be used with JSP tags to deliver a responsive, customized experience to the users or group.

Campaign Management
Internet marketing is where organizations are currently investing most of their dollars, both in releasing their own ad campaigns and in working with popular sited hosts to carry it out for them. Almost all Web sites host and carry out ad campaigns for their partners on the Web.

WebLogic Java Adapter for Mainframe
Most large organizations have ancient mainframe applications that serve their business needs, but they also have multi-tier, Web-based applications that serve the needs of their business in a modern way. The success of organization depends on how these two are integrated. BEA WebLogic Java Adapter for Mainframe (JAM) provides a solution that delivers bidirectional and request-response integration between Java and mainframe applications. In fact, JAM extends the life of mainframe applications by integrating them with Java applications running on WebLogic Server. Bidirectional means that once a WebLogic JAM is installed, it allows the WebLogic Server application to invoke mainframe applications. A typical WebLogic JAM distributed configuration is demonstrated in Figure 5.

The obvious benefits of using BEA WebLogic JAM, from business perspectives, includes leveraging existing IT investment; having an easy-to-use, Web-based Administration Console for administering JAM and providing support for a two-phase commit for distributed transactions; generating J2EE applications from existing mainframe applications; providing data translation among Java, XML, and COBOL data types; supporting mainframe security credentials; and integrating JAM into a WebLogic Integration.

WebLogic JAM and mainframe systems have two main components for interaction: gateway and Communications Resource Manager (CRM). Figure 6 demonstrates the WebLogic Administration Console for administering WebLogic JAM.

WebLogic JAM supports the following dynamic configuration changes:

  • Adding and removing WebLogic JAM gateways
  • Enabling and disabling WebLogic JAM gateways
  • Adding and removing links
  • Enabling and disabling links
  • Adding and removing services
  • Enabling and disabling services

eGen Application Generator
BEA WebLogic JAM provides a utility called eGen that assists in quickly integrating a mainframe application. The command-line utility generates Java source code using a COBOL copybook and a declarative script file as input. On executing the utility with necessary input, it generates a working Java skeleton application that can be used as a basis for new applications or as an addition to an existing application. The eGen utility can generate servlets, EJBs, or stand-alone clients. All generated skeletons include code that implements connectivity and data translation to mainframe applications.

With the help of the eGen utility, you can generate four different types of Java application models: client class, client EJB, server EJB, and servlets.

The client class is a stand-alone Java class file that invokes mainframe services. It may be incorporated into your own EJB or utilized in some other way within your code.

The client EJB is a stateless session EJB that invokes mainframe services. A servlet or other client programs can call it. This is the normal model for building a production application with access to mainframe services. A servlet that invokes the EJB's methods may be added for testing or demonstration purposes.

The server EJB is a stateless session EJB that provides a service to mainframe client applications.

The servlet-only application is a servlet that presents a simple form and invokes mainframe services directly. This model is useful for testing purposes but is not suitable for production applications.

As a WebLogic Server administrator, you will be required to install a gateway and make modifications to the WebLogic configuration to start it automatically with WebLogic Server. Follow these steps:
1.   Install the WebLogic JAM gateway.
2.   Deploy WebLogic JAM in the WebLogic Server environment.
3.   Run the IMS (Information Management System) installation verification sample.
4.   Run the CICS (Customer Information Control System) installation verification sample.
5.   Define a WebLogic JAM gateway.
6.   Configure mainframe client applications.
7.   Expose enterprise Java Beans to the mainframe.
8.   Expose JMS events to the mainframe.
9.   Expose WebLogic integration events to the mainframe.
10.   Start and stop a gateway.
11.   Activate and deactivate CRM links.
12.   Monitor the CRM status.
13.   Monitor CRM trace-level settings.
14.   Monitor CRM links.
15.   Enable an exported WebLogic application.
16.   Enable a service.

NOTE: WebLogic JAM configuration information is persisted on the administration node of the WebLogic domain. WebLogic JAM configuration is stored in Extensible Markup Language (XML) in a single file, jamconfig.xml, which should reside in the domain-specific directory on which WebLogic JAM runs.

WebLogic and TUXEDO
A robust transaction processing system, TUXEDO (Transactions for UniX, Enhanced for Distributed Operations) is the following:

  • A middleware: It relays requests and responses between client and server processes (with or without transactions).
  • A transaction processing (TP) monitor: It begins, terminates, and monitors transactions on behalf of client and server processes.
  • A distributed TP monitor (DTP): It allows transaction participants to be located on different machines or associated with different databases.

    Those who are tired of using low-level networking (streams, sockets, daemons, and so forth) for transaction processing requirements can use TUXEDO as their software communication infrastructure.

    BEA TUXEDO is a software bundle that allows integrators and developers to rapidly develop robust client-server applications. It provides an interface called Application to Transaction Monitor Interface (ATMI) that implements most of the code necessary for clients and servers to communicate. Application programmers divide business logic among TUXEDO-controlled programs or processes called servers. Other programs, called clients, can independently call functions that implement specific tasks within these servers. These tasks are called services. The following are services rendered by TUXEDO:

  • Implements a business task.
  • Encapsulates data access.
  • Provides location transparency by helping clients call services by name and not by server.
  • The TUXEDO bulletin board provides name resolution.

    TUXEDO provides a runtime graphical administration tool to configure and monitor applications. Its applications can span multiple machines, even those with different internal architectures. Logical applications or domains can be configured to facilitate interapplication communications.

    NOTE: BEA TUXEDO is a middleware infrastructure for enabling distributed transaction processing and building scaleable three-tier client/server applications and heterogeneous environments.

    TUXEDO Servers and Clients
    TUXEDO servers provide the following:

    • Business logic by TUXEDO services
    • Several encapsulated services
    • Resource management
    • Not visible for clients
    Following is a list of potential candidates for TUXEDO:
    • Part of the front-end applications
    • Presentation layer for user input/output
    • Senders of application business logic data
    Checklist
    In this chapter, we made a straightforward journey into the world of e-business products and the new innovations that that BEA is making in this arena. We covered the following:
  • WebLogic eLink is used for EAI.
  • WebLogic Express is a limited version providing restricted functionality of WebLogic Server.
  • WebLogic Portal is a portal development tool leveraging commerce services, personalization services, and campaign management.
  • WebLogic Java Adapter for Mainframe is used for integrating WebLogic Server with back-end systems.
  • eGen is used as an application-generation tool.

    SIDEBAR
    ISBN 0-07-222316-2

    Publication Date:
    10/21/2002

    Pages:
    432

    Price:
    $49.99 Available at
    www.osborne.com

    Copyrighted material reprinted with permission from the McGraw-Hill companies

  • More Stories By Akbar Ali Ansari

    Akbar Ali Ansari is a software engineer with Oracle. Before coming to Oracle he worked with BEA systems for 7 years. He is part of the Engineering team of Oracle WebLogic Server Application server and has worked on designing and developing many functionalities of WebLogic Server. He's an expert member of JSR 262 and JSR255.

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