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A New Platform

A New Platform

BEA has begun the rollout of BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1, a new release of BEA's application infrastructure platform product, with powerful new functionality for building and integrating enterprise applications.

When BEA introduced WebLogic Platform in 2002, we articulated our vision of an application infrastructure platform that enables developers to build and integrate enterprise applications easily and rapidly, that simplifies the deployment and administration of these applications, and that is inherently extensible, facilitating widespread adoption and market acceptance. WebLogic Platform 8.1, which was available in beta form in March 2003, implements and extends this vision by converging Platform development tools into a unified visual development environment, and by enhancing the ability to integrate WebLogic applications with other enterprise applications. This article provides an overview of WebLogic platform 8.1, including the major themes of this release and what they mean for developers.

WebLogic Platform 8.1 and Component Products
BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1 is an integrated platform that enables the combined development of Web applications, Web services, Enterprise JavaBeans, workflows, messaging applications, enterprise portals, trading partner applications, and more. Applications can be integrated with other enterprise applications and managed in a fully integrated, high-performance, and highly reliable runtime environment. It provides this in a single, integrated product package.

  • WebLogic Workshop 8.1 Platform Edition: A unified visual development environment and runtime framework for building enterprise-class applications for WebLogic Server, WebLogic Integration, and WebLogic Portal.
  • WebLogic Integration 8.1: An integration solution, built on WebLogic Server, for connecting enterprise applications, databases, business processes, and business partners. Includes business process/workflow management, data transformation, message brokering, adapter integration, and B2B support.
  • WebLogic Portal 8.1: A complete portal framework, built on WebLogic Server, for the integrated enterprise. Includes support for portal application development, application aggregation, portal rendering and personalization, user and entitlement management, content management, and delegated portal administration.
  • WebLogic Server 8.1: The leading Web application server and foundation for the WebLogic Platform. Includes full J2EE runtime, development tool, and administration support for highly available, scalable, and secure applications.
  • WebLogic JRockit 8.1: A high-performance JVM optimized for server-side performance and scalability. Supported by all WebLogic Platform components and now fully integrated into the WebLogic Platform package, in addition to being available as a stand-alone JVM.

    BEA continues to make these products available separately, enabling customers to select the components that are most appropriate to a specific project with the assurance that additional WebLogic Platform functionality can be added and integrated later, as enterprise application requirements dictate.

    The new features of WebLogic Platform 8.1 and the component products above are the focus of this article. In addition, BEA offers complementary products that help to define the BEA WebLogic Enterprise Platform, including:

    • BEA WebLogic Adapters for application integration
    • BEA Liquid Data for WebLogic
    • JBuilder, WebLogic Edition
    • BEA Tuxedo
    BEA will provide new releases and/or certification of all of the products for use with WebLogic Platform 8.1.

    Convergence and Integration
    In defining the new features of the WebLogic Platform 8.1 release, we focused on major themes that would provide the greatest benefit to customers and developers. One theme was integration. Most WebLogic applications are required to integrate with third-party application packages, custom applications, messaging systems, Web services, content management systems, trading partners, and so on. To address these requirements, WebLogic Platform 8.1 contains major enhancements to integration capabilities, including simplified development, new runtime functionality, and improved administration to better leverage existing enterprise environments.

    A closely related theme is convergence. More and more customer solutions require multiple WebLogic Platform runtime components - combinations of WebLogic Server, Integration, and Portal. In response, we have converged and unified the development tools for these products into WebLogic Workshop Platform Edition, which now supports the visual development of WebLogic Portal and WebLogic Integration applications, as well as Web services and Web applications for WebLogic Server. For J2EE developers, we have enhanced the J2EE compilers, tools, and utilities provided with WebLogic Server, and continue to support tools such as JBuilder, WebLogic Edition for building J2EE applications. However, for a broad base of developers, WebLogic Workshop provides an easy-to-use visual development environment that enables development of WebLogic Server, Integration, and Portal applications without requiring J2EE expertise.

    Enhancements in the areas of convergence and integration have resulted in a platform that provides extraordinary new capabilities for custom application development and ease of integration, while continuing to leverage the proven reliability and scalability of WebLogic Server and WebLogic Server J2EE support. For developers, this means reduced training time, higher productivity, higher software and skill reuse, reduced time-to-market/deployment, and increased ROI for enterprise application development projects. It also means broader acceptance of WebLogic Platform in your enterprises, and broader adoption by ISVs who will deliver complementary products and layered applications.

    WebLogic Workshop 8.1
    WebLogic Workshop is both a development tool and a runtime framework that abstracts underlying J2EE constructs from the Java application developer. It presents a visual development environment for application development, and generates the underlying J2EE infrastructure for running these applications on WebLogic Server. This release includes new "designers" that enable development of new types of applications. This section describes WebLogic Workshop 8.1 Application Edition, and new features for development of WebLogic Server applications. Later we'll look at WebLogic Workshop 8.1Platform Edition, including support for WebLogic Integration and Portal.

    The first release of Workshop provided prepackaged controls that enabled access to external resources from Web services applications. In this release, Workshop supports the development of custom controls that incorporate business logic. For example, you can create a control that performs a database query (via a database control), receives a JMS message (via a JMS control), executes business logic, and returns a result to the Workshop application. Once developed, such controls, including nested controls, can be leveraged across all applications developed with Workshop. Custom control development and reuse is a powerful capability that will promote software reuse and developer productivity, and simplify application integration.

    Workshop also provides new designers for building Web applications within the Workshop IDE. JSP pages can be developed using the same development environment familiar to Web services developers. A different visual metaphor is used, but the structure of the overall Workshop environment (two-way source/visual editing, use of annotated Java code, integrated testing and debugging, access to external resources through controls, etc.) is the same. Workshop leverages Struts technology to enable the creation of Pageflows that combine multiple JSPs, and that specify the flow of applications and data across them.

    Workshop contains a variety of additional enhancements to existing capabilities. New Web services features include more reliable and secure Web services, leveraging Web services support provided by the WebLogic Server runtime. There are core IDE enhancements as well, such as improved debugging support and software source control integration support. Finally, Workshop has added designer support for "XML Beans," providing developers with easy access to data stored in XML format by automatically generating interfaces based on XML Schema. With the ability to build custom controls and Web applications, Workshop now provides a rich environment for developing a broad range of enterprise class applications for WebLogic Server.

    WebLogic Integration 8.1
    As stated earlier, most WebLogic applications have at least some integration requirements, and integration projects typically involve use of workflow and data transformation. To enable the easy development of such applications, WebLogic Workshop now supports new designers that enable the creation of workflows and data transformations from within WebLogic Workshop Platform Edition.

    The visual metaphor for building workflow applications is shown in Figure 1 with a sample workflow. The green and red icons represent the start and end nodes of the workflow. The developer inserts steps into the workflow to represent the business process by dragging and dropping additional workflow nodes from the Workflow Palette. Having created an overall structure, the developer can add methods and callbacks to nodes, and add business controls to create a workflow process. Alternatively, developers can begin workflow development using business process templates, and customize them for their specific business requirements. The resulting workflow designs control execution of workflow process decisions, access to external resources and exchange of business documents across applications, and execution of business logic within workflow nodes.

    Integration applications typically involve data transformations - business documents retrieved from one data source or application must be transformed to the format expected by another data source. WebLogic Integration 7.0 supported XML<->XML data transformations using XSLT, and continues to do so in this release. However, Workshop 8.1 offers new capabilities for the development of transformation controls that can be incorporated into workflows. In the case of XML<->XML transformations, Workshop provides a designer that enables mapping from one XML Schema to another, and generation of a transformation control that includes an X-Query expression defining the transformation. To perform XML<->Binary transformations, Format Builder is used to define the transformations, which are then incorporated into Workshop transformation controls.

    Once again, the new workflow and transformation designers leverage the same core Workshop development features, such as the use of annotated Java code, two-way visual/source editing, ability to set workflow properties, integrated debugging, and use of controls for access to external resources. Having developed integration applications in the Workshop environment, integrating these with other Workshop applications is easily accomplished.

    These enhancements to the development environment are enabled by enhancements to the WebLogic Integration runtime. For example, the Integration runtime supports the execution of workflows developed in Workshop, and a new X-Query engine supports high-performance runtime execution of X-Query-based transformations. In addition to providing support for long-running stateful business processes, WebLogic Integration provides a new message broker runtime for execution of stateless workflows with high-performance message routing and transformation. Other enhancements include a message repository for high-performance message processing, native support for Web services, and a new Web-based Administration Console that leverages the JMX infrastructure provided by WebLogic Server. The Integration runtime also contains enhancements for B2B application support, and continues to provide support for application views to enable control-based access to application adapters. BEA has provided a wide range of application and technology adapters for WebLogic Integration 7.0, and will continue to provide such complementary adapters for WebLogic Integration 8.1.

    WebLogic Portal 8.1
    The Workshop environment has been further extended with new designers that support development of WebLogic Portal applications, such as the construction of portal pages, describing navigation among these pages, and including portlets within the portal pages being developed. This is all accomplished with drag-and-drop creation, two-way visual/source editing, modification of portal and portlet properties, integrated test/debugging, and so on. Workshop facilitates the inclusion of Workshop-based Web applications, controls, Web services, and business integration workflows (and externally developed Web applications as well) into your portal application. This application leverages all the existing and new features provided by the WebLogic Portal runtime environment. In this way Workshop facilitates the aggregation and integration of applications into enterprise portals to support the targeted delivery of application and content to portal users, and to facilitate the management of portals by business and IT owners.

    In addition to providing the new Workshop development environment, and the ability to easily aggregate and integrate Web applications into enterprise portals, we've provided architectural and administrative enhancements to the WebLogic Portal runtime that address requirements for highly flexible deployment and management of portal applications. Architectural enhancements such as support for multiple portals per Web application, and support for multiple "desktops" (end-user entry points) per portal provides developers with greater flexibility to build portals with complex hierarchies. Multiple administration enhancements enable flexible administration of portal environments, application of entitlements, delegation of administration tasks, and delegation of functions such as page and portlet creation to end users. New content management capabilities provide federated access and management of content repositories. Portlet enhancements enable creation of high-performance, standards-based portlets that are easy to manage and maintain. The new features reinforce WebLogic Portal's ability to address requirements scaling from simple Web applications to a complex Portal networks.

    WebLogic Server 8.1
    WebLogic Server 8.1 reinforces WebLogic Server's position as the underlying foundation for the WebLogic Platform. In addition to enabling the runtime framework for Workshop applications, the latest release of WebLogic Server includes usability enhancements to development, configuration, and management tools; performance and reliability enhancements; and integration enhancements that are available to developers and also leveraged by other WebLogic Platform components.

    For developers, WebLogic Server continues to support tools and utilities, in addition to WebLogic Workshop, for the J2EE developer building EJBs, or who prefers to develop in a command-line environment. Usability enhancements for these developers include a single J2EEC - EAR compiler, replacing the separate compilers in previous releases, enhancements to rapid iterative development and deployment, improved error message handling for debugging, simplified integration with foreign JMS providers, and Web services task enhancements.

    For developers and administrators, WebLogic Server 8.1 provides enhancements to configuration and management tools that will assist both developers and administrators, including simplification of installation and domain configuration using the Configuration Wizard, and usability enhancements to the Admin Console that simplify commonly performed administration tasks. BEA continues to work closely with third parties who provide value-added monitoring and management capabilities.

    WebLogic Server's leadership performance and availability has been raised to a new level through enhancements that include EJB, JDBC, security subsystem and load balancing optimizations, and address requirements of customers demanding the highest levels of performance and scalability.

    Integration enhancements include JMS reliability improvements and enhancements to Tuxedo integration support. Web services now support reliable, exactly once delivery over HTTP and JMS, and support for the WS-Security Web services security standard, which enables encryption and signing of SOAP messages, independent of the underlying transport being used.

    WebLogic JRockit 8.1
    WebLogic Platform now includes the WebLogic JRockit JVM on Windows and Linux systems to provide a high-performance, scalable, and reliable JVM optimized for server-side applications. Historically, JVMs have been evolved to support a diverse set of requirements, including client application requirements. Our analysis has shown that in a wide range of server applications for which JVMs are not generally optimized, the JVM has been a key component that limited server application performance and scalability. WebLogic JRockit is the first commercial JVM built from the ground up for server-side Java applications. WebLogic JRockit design and development has focused on three major goals:

  • Combine the best adaptive optimization techniques for code generation, memory management, thread management, and native methods.
  • Make the system as independent as possible from the underlying hardware and operating system.
  • Provide a robust management framework for JVM profiling and tuning.

    With optimization for the types of applications supported by WebLogic Platform, proven and enhanced over multiple releases during the past year, JRockit provides an ideal JVM environment for deploying WebLogic Platform server applications on Windows and Linux systems. The latest release, WebLogic JRockit 8.1, provides a range of new features including:

  • J2SE 1.4.1, JVMPI, and JVMDI support
  • Workshop IDE support
  • Integration with third-party profiling, development, and management tools
  • Performance enhancements
  • 32- and 64-bit Intel architecture support on Windows and Linux systems

    Integration of Components into a Single Platform
    The first release of the WebLogic Platform set the standard for the integration of key application infrastructure technologies into a single, proven, standards-based application infrastructure platform. All of the platform integration features already delivered and supported have been brought forward to WebLogic Platform 8.1: common packaging and licensing, integrated installation and ease of configuration, common WebLogic Server foundation, coexistence of platform product components within the same server process, interoperation across product components, unified documentation, common support model, and consistent hardware and operating system support.

    In addition to providing extraordinary richness of functionality in each of the WebLogic Platform component products, in this release BEA has extended the seamless integration of the WebLogic Platform as a whole through component features, such as the unified Workshop development environment, and enhanced and simplified the administration discussed earlier. BEA has also provided additional integration enhancements to provide a seamless experience for developers and administrators.

    For example, enhancements to the Configuration Wizard and configuration templates enable not only the initial configuration of WebLogic Platform environments, but also the ability to flexibly add WebLogic Platform components to existing configurations. This facilitates the addition of the WebLogic Portal, for example, to configurations where WebLogic Integration applications are already deployed. Further, we're providing developers with the ability to create their own configuration templates to enable the "handoff" of WebLogic Platform application configurations to other developers, administrators, or customers. Another area of enhanced cross-platform integration is in the area of security. All WebLogic Platform components now fully leverage the security infrastructure enhancements first provided in WebLogic Server 7.0. This means greater consistency in user management, integration with third-party security providers, support of security policies and entitlements across platform applications, and use of new security features such as WS-Security.

    Conclusion
    We're extremely proud of this release because we believe it will help developers and solve real customer problems. We've provided a preintegrated infrastructure that enables you to focus on solving problems of enterprise application integration, rather than worry about integrating products from your vendors.

    Visit our Web site (www.bea.com) to download the beta software - we hope you'll be as excited as we are.

  • 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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