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Introducing WebLogic Server 8.1

Introducing WebLogic Server 8.1

In today's competitive business environment, success depends on the quality of information available and the sophistication with which it is used. Many companies successfully differentiate themselves with the quality of their information-handling systems. As technologists, our job is to build systems that fully leverage the information available within the enterprise. It's critical that these systems adapt seamlessly and efficiently to ever-changing business requirements.

In spite of the relative importance of information systems, the current economic conditions have had an enormous impact on Information Technology (IT). While the need for improved information systems has not gone away, the resources allotted for such projects have been reduced, in some cases dramatically. We're all faced with the considerable challenge of doing more with less, finding ways to work with greater efficiency. Building and maintaining custom enterprise application systems is a difficult proposition. Even with the many tools available on the market, the complexity associated with developing and managing custom applications can be a drain on our resources. This wastes time, money, and perhaps most importantly, opportunity. I've heard some customers say, "We have stopped all new development projects because we can hardly afford to maintain the applications that are already deployed." More than ever, reducing the total cost of ownership of information systems has become a necessity.

At the same time, application server vendors are faced with an increasingly competitive market. In many cases, vendors have responded by adding features, the latest bells and whistles intended to differentiate themselves from their competition. While additional features are intended to improve a product, they often make a product more difficult to understand and use. Elegance and simplicity give way to feature "bloat" and complexity. The vast majority of commercially available software products have grown in complexity with each subsequent release. For example, think of some of the desktop applications that we love to hate - word processors, spreadsheet applications, and the like, that add new features we rarely use, obscuring the few features that we do use on a daily basis. This is not to say that new features are bad. They are often necessary to address new or changing requirements. However, it is critical that new features reduce, not add to, overall complexity. With WebLogic Server 8.1, we have focused on improvements that simplify interaction with WebLogic Server, with the end goal of raising productivity and reducing costs.

Maximizing Productivity
BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1 reduces complexity and maximizes productivity by providing a unified framework for all core application infrastructure components. Common development tools, install, and configuration for all WebLogic Platform products simplify user interaction. When necessary, WebLogic Platform can also be extended to seamlessly incorporate custom components or third-party, best-of-breed products.

WebLogic Server is the foundation for WebLogic Platform and provides the kernel of services for the other components. For WebLogic Server 8.1, we have paid particular attention to how various user roles interact with WebLogic Server with the goal of maximizing productivity and reducing costs in the following scenarios:

  • Developing applications: Maximize productivity with simplified programming models optimized for iterative development cycles.
  • Administering applications: Reduce the ongoing costs of operations, and maximize uptime, reliability, performance, and scalability.
  • Leverage existing IT investments: Get the most out of existing systems by integrating applications using standards-based integration technology such as Web services and messaging.

    In the following sections we'll take a closer look at how WebLogic Server 8.1 can reduce your costs and help you do more with less.

    Developing Applications
    Different development tasks require different skills sets. Because of this, a certain amount of specialization is expected in every IT organization. You wouldn't ask a Web jockey to develop a highly optimized data access layer based on Entity EJBs, nor would you ask an integration expert to design a Web-based user interface. As developers specialize around different tasks and skills sets, they also develop different practices and use different programming models, patterns, and tools. It is therefore critical to choose a platform that maximizes developer productivity regardless of sophistication level or specialization. WebLogic Server 8.1 provides an environment that allows developers to use their preferred programming paradigms and work within a level of complexity that they are most comfortable.

    Historically, the complexity of developing advanced J2EE applications has limited adoption to only the most sophisticated developers with a good understanding of distributed computing and object-oriented programming. It can be very difficult and expensive to build a large staff of developers with this level of sophistication. WebLogic Workshop provides a unique IDE and framework that greatly simplifies development of WebLogic Server applications. Developers work within a higher level of programming abstraction that shields them from the complexities of J2EE and object-oriented programming. With WebLogic Platform 8.1, WebLogic Workshop can be used to create Web services, Web-based user interfaces, business process workflows, and even EJB applications.

    Experienced enterprise-level J2EE developers may also choose to use a J2EE development environment. Borland JBuilder, BEA WebLogic Edition, is a tightly integrated development solution for building enterprise applications on WebLogic Platform. It is optimized for seamless development and deployment to the WebLogic Platform, enhancing developer productivity with support for UML code visualization, refactoring, and unit testing.

    Of course, we haven't forgotten about those developers who prefer to stick with the flexibility and low overhead of Emacs or vi and custom build environments. While these environments can be fast and efficient to work with, they often require significant effort to create. In WebLogic Server 8.1, we continue to embrace the Ant build tool and have provided custom Ant tasks for handling the repetitive tasks of building, configuring, and deploying WebLogic Server applications. The provided utilities are extremely efficient, avoid all unnecessary copying and archiving of files during the build process, and maintain a clear distinction between source files and output files for simple integration with source-control systems.

    Regardless of the development tools you choose, developer productivity relies on the ability to quickly apply changes to an application and verify the intended effect of those changes. In WebLogic Server 8.1, we paid particular attention to optimizing for iterative development cycles. We made significant improvements to minimize the time between when a change is applied to source code and when that change can be verified in a deployed application. These changes include minimizing the need to restart the server for configuration changes, optimizing application redeployment so that only the delta is redeployed, significantly improving server startup time for those cases where a re-start is necessary, and consolidating component compiler tools to a single utility that can handle all application component types. The end result is an extremely productive development experience for all developers.

    Administering Applications
    With the success of J2EE and WebLogic Server, the number and scale of deployed applications within the enterprise have increased dramatically, leading to increased technical and organizational complexity in application management. With the increased focus on the bottom line, the cost of administering existing applications has crippled many IT organizations. WebLogic Server 8.1 increases administrator productivity and reduces costs, with significant enhancements to application monitoring, analytics, and configuration as well as overall server performance and scalability.

    In WebLogic Server 8.1, BEA introduces significant new functionality in the area of application monitoring and analytics for fault diagnosis and troubleshooting. Intended for use in development, test, and production environments, this functionality provides monitoring visibility of all J2EE components and WebLogic Server services to help developers and operators understand the runtime characteristics of their code, and quickly isolate performance and logic problems. And because all data visualization, monitoring configuration, and rules creation are presented to users in the context of the WebLogic Server Administration Console, this functionality is accessible to any authorized user without the need for separate installation or third-party tools.

    WebLogic Server monitoring auto-discovers and instruments user applications to provide the depth of visibility needed to support troubleshooters as they drill from service, to object, all the way down to individual methods executed at runtime. If developers have exposed custom metrics using JMX, WebLogic Server monitoring will recognize and expose these as well.

    Users can define thresholds and rules that throw alerts when violations occur, and, because all WebLogic Server monitoring data is exposed to third-party tools, it is possible to automate alerts and other operations-level logic in third-party enterprise-management tools from HP, BMC, and Mercury Interactive (to name a few). This provides the flexibility to integrate WebLogic Server into any support infrastructure, helping to lower costs of support, and improve the availability of online products.

    Application configuration has also gotten easier. Improvements to the Administration Console greatly simplify some of the more complex configuration tasks such as SSL, JDBC Pool, and cluster replication group configuration. For repetitive tasks, such as migrating applications from development environments to testing/staging, administrative commands can be scripted using batched mode support with the administrative utilities as well as new Ant tasks that provide simplified abstractions to all WebLogic Server administrative commands.

    Of course, server reliability, availability, scalability, and performance provide obvious benefits in terms of application uptime, delivering the best possible end-user experiences, and meeting the most demanding application requirements in terms of scope and scale. WebLogic Server 8.1 continues its tradition of excellence in all of these areas. We have paid particular attention to improving scalability with new load balancing options, and performance to maximize the computing power of each server instance, allowing for the most efficient use of software license and hardware resources. Couple this with dramatic improvements in administrator productivity resulting from the enhancements in application monitoring, analytics, and configuration described above and WebLogic Server 8.1 can help to significantly drive down the cost of managing your applications.

    Leveraging Existing IT Investments
    With the massive investments in enterprise software applications over the last few decades, today's typical enterprise is made up of a vast number of disparate systems purchased and implemented throughout various stages of software evolution. These systems are implemented on a variety of software and hardware platforms without a standard protocol or data model for communication between applications. It is no secret that the company that can best leverage its existing IT investment to create unified systems that share data and services will have an advantage over its competitors. In the past, the lack of standards-based integration technology required any integration effort to be based on proprietary software solutions. The resources required to develop and maintain proprietary solutions come at a far greater expense than standards-based solutions that can leverage existing skill sets and prebuilt components and adaptors. With the emergence of Web services, J2EE Connector Architecture, and JMS-based messaging products, standards-based integration is becoming a reality. As these technologies mature, greater cost savings can be realized as the technology's applicability to various integration scenarios increases. WebLogic Server 8.1 provides two critical components that are lacking in many Web services platforms on the market today: end-to-end security and reliable delivery.

    End-to-End Security
    In many integration scenarios, it is critical to secure the integrity and confidentiality of the messages and to ensure that the service acts only on messages that express the claims required by policies. Since Web services typically leverage HTTP as the transport protocol for sending SOAP messages to service endpoints, it's possible to provide point-to-point, or transport level, security using the Secure Socket Layer (SSL; see Figure 1).

    However, SSL alone is insufficient for many common topologies that require message-processing intermediaries. When messages are received and processed by an intermediary, they must be pulled off the transport layer. When the message is then forwarded, both the integrity of data and any security information that flows with it may be lost. This forces any subsequent message processors to rely on the security evaluations made by previous intermediaries and to trust their handling of the message content. WebLogic Server 8.1 is the first application server to provide an implementation of WS-Security, an OASIS specification (currently in draft). WS-Security solves these issues by providing facilities to ensure data integrity and confidentiality at the message level. XML Encryption and XML Signature can be applied directly to the SOAP message. Therefore, even in multi-hop scenarios, where a message must pass through multiple intermediaries and be pulled off the transport layer, the integrity and confidentiality of the message can be maintained (see Figure 2).

    Reliable Delivery
    Asynchronous, reliable delivery is another crucial component of many integration projects. This can be a challenge for Web services architectures that extend beyond the firewall and need to use HTTP as the transport protocol because HTTP is inherently synchronous and unreliable. Reliable messaging is a new framework for WebLogic Server 8.1, whereby an application running in one WebLogic Server instance can asynchronously and reliably invoke a Web service running on another WebLogic Server instance. The reliable messaging feature works in a way similar to ebXML Reliable Messaging protocol, only the concepts have been applied to Web services. The architecture is described below and in Figure 3.
    1.   The sender application invokes a reliable operation running on the receiver WebLogic Server.
    2.   The sender runtime saves the message in its persistent JMS store. The store can be either a JMS File or a JDBC store.
    3.   The sender runtime sends the SOAP message to the receiver WebLogic Server.
    4.   The receiver runtime receives the message, checks for duplicates in its persistent JMS store and, if none are found, saves the message ID in store. If it finds a duplicate, the receiver ignores the message.
    5.   The receiver runtime immediately sends notification back to the sender that the message was received.
    6.   The receiver runtime invokes the reliable operation.
    7.   Because only void operations can be invoked reliably, the receiver does not return any values or exceptions to the sender.
    8.   The sender runtime removes the message from its persistent store so that the message is not sent again.
    9.   The sender is configured to retry sending the message if it does not receive notification of receipt. You configure the number of retries, and amount of time between retries, of the sender using the Administration Console. Once sender runtime has re-sent the message the maximum number of retries, it removes the message from its store.
    10.   The sender runtime sends notification to the sender application (either via callbacks or polling) that either the message was received or that it was never successfully delivered.

    For messages within the firewall, it is often acceptable to use the Java Message Service (JMS) or a message broker as a way to reliably deliver messages from one node to another. In WebLogic Server 8.1, WebLogic Server JMS can be selected as the transport protocol (as an alternative to HTTP/S) for SOAP messages sent to a given Web service. The generated WSDL of the Web service will contain a port definition with a JMS binding.

    Additional enhancements to WebLogic Server JMS in WebLogic Server 8.1 include:

  • A thin JMS client that provides full client functionality at greatly reduced client-side footprint (400K)
  • Simplified configuration for integrating with foreign JMS providers
  • New "wrappers" that make it easier to use JMS from inside J2EE components such as EJBs and servlets.
  • Improved handling of expired messages to ensure that they are cleaned up immediately. Moreover, message auditing gives you the option of tracking expired messages, either by logging when a message expires or by redirecting expired messages to a special destination.
  • A "Blocking Send" feature to help you avoid receiving message quota errors by temporarily blocking message producers from sending messages to a destination when the destination has exceeded its specified maximum message quota.

    By addressing the crucial elements of end-to-end security and reliable delivery, WebLogic Server 8.1 greatly increases the applicability of Web services. This allows you to leverage your existing IT investment in a cost-effective manner without relying on costly one-off solutions that are difficult to develop and maintain. For integration projects that require higher-level functionality, such as Business Process Management (BPM), B2B, and complex transformations, WebLogic Integration 8.1 is a natural extension on top of the base functionality offered in WebLogic Server 8.1.

    Conclusion
    In the face of economic uncertainty, IT organizations are forced to reduce costs and make the most out of available resources. It has become necessary to maximize developer and administrator productivity and fully leverage existing IT investments. WebLogic Server 8.1 provides the development environments, administrative tools, and integration technology that can help you get ahead in an increasingly competitive world without damaging your bottom line.

  • More Stories By James Rivera

    Jim Rivera is a product manager for WebLogic Server focusing on Web services, XML, EJB, and caching. He is lead product manager for the WebLogic Server 7.0 release.

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    Most Recent Comments
    franky jack 11/24/03 04:42:35 AM EST

    Hi, Ineed information about the difference between WebLogic server 8.1 premium edition and advantage Edition. Thanks for Infos!

    Jim Rivera 07/03/03 10:36:00 AM EDT

    Hi,
    For additional information and support on WebLogic Server and the entire WebLogic Platform, please visit BEA dev2dev at http://dev2dev.bea.com/index.jsp

    Thanks,
    Jim

    Saravanan Sivakumaran 06/22/03 11:47:00 PM EDT

    I am preparing a WebLogic recomendation to a customer who wants to make a choice between 7.0 and 8.1.

    Where can I get a good comparison (pros & cons) of the two versions of WebLogic?

    Any info on this is welcome!

    Thanks!

    WLDJ editorial staff 06/17/03 01:02:00 PM EDT

    WLDJ's editorial staff can't help with this. We recommend that you contact one of the groups at [email protected], where there is technical support that can provide an answer.

    Wolfgang Kraus 06/17/03 12:54:00 PM EDT

    Which version of JRE/JDK is recommended for use with Weblogic 8.1?

    WLDJ editorial staff 06/16/03 08:51:00 AM EDT

    The editorial staff is unable to answer your question. We recommend that you contact the chat groups at dev2dev.bea.com, where experts are available to help you.

    WLDJ editors 06/16/03 08:49:00 AM EDT

    The editorial staff is unable to answer your question. We recommend that you contact the chat groups at dev2dev.bea.com, where experts are available to help you.

    Karen Javier 06/09/03 03:23:00 PM EDT

    Can Weblogic integrate with desktop applications such as MS Office 97, MS office 2000 and Corel Word Perfect Office 2000?

    lubi 06/09/03 10:46:00 AM EDT

    i had installed weblogic6.1 in windowsXP. But i cannot start weblogic
    server,why? Should i change something?

    help me please,thank you very much

    lubi 06/09/03 10:46:00 AM EDT

    i had installed weblogic6.1 in windowsXP. But i cannot start weblogic
    server,why? Should i change something?

    show me the answer,thank you very much

    lubi 06/09/03 10:45:00 AM EDT

    i had installed weblogic6.1 in windowsXP. But i cannot start weblogic
    server,why? Should i change something?

    show me the answer,thank you very much

    lubi 06/09/03 10:43:00 AM EDT

    i had installed weblogic6.1 in windowsXP. But i cannot start weblogic
    server,why? Should i change something?

    show me the answer,thank you very much.

    D M 05/28/03 01:44:00 AM EDT

    Has anyone seen any comparisions of Weblogic Web Services performances versus .Net Web Services?

    I'm looking for facts on each

    Thanks to all who respond

    Arbi Sookazian 05/22/03 11:56:00 PM EDT

    HI,

    Could you please summarize the advantages of using BEA WebLogic app server over Sybase EAServer/Jaguar? For example, performance, clustering/failover, deployment, scalability, monitoring tools, reliability, cost-effectiveness. Also, have there been any published independent studies answering these types of questions and comparing the major middle-tier servers?

    Is it possible to use weblogic server effectively in a production environment without using IIS to serve up the pages?

    WLDJ editorial staff 05/01/03 04:24:00 PM EDT

    We recommend that you go to dev2dev.bea.com for more information on how to get WebLogic Server to work and other helpful hints on using the WebLogic Platform.

    Rashmi Jadhav 04/30/03 01:23:00 PM EDT

    i just want to know how can this weblogic server work?

    bulli 04/18/03 08:20:00 AM EDT

    I am very new to weblogic and application server also.i want to learn about weblogic..can any one suggest me to how to proceed..

    Thanks.

    Anil Atur 04/18/03 02:31:00 AM EDT

    how is WebLogic Server different from other Application Servers.

    WLDJ editors 04/14/03 11:41:00 AM EDT

    We suggest that you contact one of the product management newsgroups for help in understanding all of the parts to WebLogic 8.1

    WLDJ editors 04/14/03 11:39:00 AM EDT

    The editorial staff does not have an answer for you. We suggest you contact [email protected], or one of the product management newsgroups, which can better help you.

    WLDJ 04/14/03 11:37:00 AM EDT

    We really don't have the answer for that question here; consider contacting the staff of Java Developer's Journal, or one of the user groups at [email protected]

    Ray 04/11/03 02:16:00 PM EDT

    Weblogic now has so many different pieces to it. It's getting hard to understand it all. Is there a cheat sheet out-there somewhere?

    amit 04/11/03 10:01:00 AM EDT

    I have install weblogic server 8.1 on windows 98 machine and configure it but it did not start pleae help me....

    sanjeev 04/10/03 02:59:00 AM EDT

    Hello sir

    i want to know the scope of java at prasent or other technolgy used

    urs 04/09/03 09:33:00 AM EDT

    hi,

    do you have a page where i can learn bea wls 8.1

    i use solaris plattform with iplanet

    bye
    urs

    Francescoia 08/05/03 05:54:00 AM EDT

    Is it possible to create portlet in Weblogic Server 6.0?

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