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JBuilder 7 Enterprise

JBuilder 7 Enterprise

Given the current pace of technology change, we seem to be under ever-increasing pressure from product vendors to upgrade to the newest, latest version of software. Most software vendors now seem to have major software releases scheduled every six months. This can put a strain not only on you, but also on your finances. Along with JBuilder 7, Borland has introduced another companion product, Software Assurance - but more on that later.

I come across two types of developers in my consultancy engagements - those who like to use an IDE, and those who frown on the technology, preferring to use the likes of Notepad (but more likely Emacs!) to produce the Java source, and then some custom build process (often using Ant) - what I describe as a "roll-your- own" development environment - to produce the application. I can see benefits to both approaches, and I've often thought that either approach to development environments is a matter of personal or corporate preference. I do, however, believe that a good IDE can be a great aid to a development team's productivity. A good IDE is one that has sufficient flexibility to enable the development team to work together and build the software solution. The features of the IDE should never constrain the solution the development team wishes to create!

JBuilder was one of the first IDEs for Java and is now probably the most prevalent. However, things are becoming much more competitive in the IDE marketplace, with the likes of the Eclipse and NetBeans initiatives and low-end IDEs such as IntelliJ IDEA from JetBrains (www.intellij.com). Having been a JBuilder user for a number of years, I'd been investigating switching IDEs, so I was very interested in seeing what JBuilder 7 would bring.

Installation
The JBuilder distribution comes in a rather impressive box. A number of paper-based manuals describe JBuilder's features and walk you through the various wizards that form JBuilder. These manuals are high-quality and very easy to follow. Unpacking the CDs, I found a number of products supplied as part of JBuilder Enterprise: JBuilder itself, a CD of companion tools (a set of components and plug-ins provided by Borland partners), a development version of Borland's Enterprise Server, and a trial version of the Optimizeit Suite. A rather impressive set of CDs!

Installing JBuilder was a breeze; I opted for a complete installation and an installation of the Borland Enterprise Server (see Figure 1). The install program worked fine in my environment (I'd had a couple of issues with JBuilder 6) and, with a couple of CD swaps, I had JBuilder and BES installed. The complete JBuilder installation is rather large, taking more than 850MB of disk space. This does, however, account for BES and the Optimizeit Suite; JBuilder itself takes more than 420MB of space.

JBuilder Overview
One of the major benefits to using JBuilder is that it comes with a number of project wizards. After creating a new project you can choose to create a large number of different artifacts from the "Object Gallery." The Object Gallery provides a simple interface to allow you to choose which wizard to run. Of interest to WLS developers is the Enterprise tab, from which you can choose to access a number of EJB features. Web applications, servlets, and JSPs can be created via the Web tab on the Object Gallery and JUnit tests can be created via the Test tab. To show some of these features, I'll walk through the creation of a simple EJB component.

Assuming the destination platform is WLS 7.0, I'll create an EJB using the EJB 2.0 specification. To create such an EJB in JBuilder, select the EJB 2.0 Bean Designer, which Borland lists as a key feature of JBuilder Enterprise. After the wizard has created an EJB module for my components (a build artifact that includes the EJB JAR and the deployment options) I can create the actual EJB components. This is done in the visual EJB designer, which gives the option of creating each of the current EJBs in the spec.

Using the visual designer to create an EJB is tremendously easy. The designer allows the developer to configure each and every option. This has a direct effect on the EJB code, as well as the deployment descriptor. In Figure 2 we can see that JBuilder can create session EJBs as well as entity EJBs. The power of the visual designer becomes very apparent when it's used to create relationships between entities. This tool gives developers a clear vision of what they are creating, as well as giving full access to the properties of the entities and the relationships between them. Excellent!

When the EJB frameworks have been created we can edit the source code. In JBuilder 6, refactoring features were introduced that allowed the simple renaming of classes, operations, and attributes. In JBuilder 7 these features have been extended to include the extraction of methods from blocks of code and surrounding blocks of code with the appropriate try/catch blocks. These features work really well and are a valuable aid to developer productivity, especially if the development team is following an extreme programming-style development process.

When the code compiles and the components are ready to be deployed, deployment can be done from within the IDE. This feature makes use of the WLS command-line deployment tool, weblogic.Deployer. Within JBuilder you can configure the options for this feature, allowing, for example, the deployment of the application to a cluster or to different servers. However, before deploying the application the server needs to be configured from within the IDE. Figure 3 shows the options available to the developer for a WLS 7 installation. JBuilder supports WebLogic Server 5.1, 6.x, and 7.0.

JBuilder 7 includes a UML code visualization feature that provides a UML view of the class currently being edited and its associations. This feature is useful if the developer has a model to compare to, but it's not a UML design tool like Rational Rose/XDE or TogetherSoft's TogetherJ. I don't find this to be a problem, and I applaud Borland for introducing design features into their product, as I often come across developers who wouldn't know one end of an association from another.

New Features
As elements of a Java-based architecture evolve and new versions of the JDK and other APIs are released, a roll-your-own development environment can be quick to react. Having full control of your development environment you can plug in the latest version of the JDK and carry on development. With JBuilder 7, the build environment is opened up, and you can add your own custom build tasks, and even build your project using Ant. The benefits of this are tremendous, as you can now make use of third-party build processes. For example, you can now use JBuilder to create Web services for WebLogic Server 7 using the provided custom Ant tasks.

Within the JBuilder environment you can specify at which phase of the build process the Ant tasks apply, or you can run the Ant tasks manually, bypassing the JBuilder build process. This is really great flexibility if it's desired; if it isn't, you can just use the JBuilder build process.

The addition of Ant integration into the IDE build process is a feature that sets JBuilder apart from most current IDEs. Borland lists JBuilder's key features as:

  • A visual EJB designer
  • Deployment to leading application servers, including WebLogic Server
  • Support for Web services development
  • UML code visualization
  • Refactoring and unit testing
  • Configuration management
The complete list of features can be found on the Borland Web site, but I'll mention a couple that I've found very useful. As I mentioned before, there's the integration with Ant, plus there's now support for SQL/J, as well as support for WebLogic Server 7. Unfortunately, the WLS 7 support is added as an option to the WLS 6 server properties. This means you can't easily switch between application server versions. This is a pain when you still have clients working on both 6.1 and 7.0 as you have to reconfigure your server properties. A completely separate server configuration for WLS 7 would have been much nicer.

Numerous additional small features that make the developer's life easier have been introduced in JBuilder 7. For example, you can now close a code window from a button on the Window tab rather than having to right click and select close; it's a small thing, but I always found the old way irritating.

With JBuilder 7 Borland introduced Software Assurance. There were only 12 months between the release of JBuilder 5 and that of JBuilder 7. Previously, the only option was to purchase the upgrade product for a price slightly below that of the full version (in the UK), as software maintenance wasn't available. This business model may have been okay when products were on a 12-18 month upgrade program, but when new major versions of the product are released every 6 months, it becomes a strain. For a development team these costs can quickly become a considerable proportion of the development costs. Software Assurance addresses these concerns. Software Assurance is a comprehensive software maintenance product that gives us peace of mind concerning the JBuilder product set for the next couple of years. It's great to realize that Borland's been listening to its customers!

Summary
With the release of JBuilder 7 Enterprise, JBuilder has become a truly excellent product. JBuilder 6 was a hard act to follow, but JBuilder 7 accomplishes all it sets out to achieve and more. It introduces many new features and supports JDK 1.4. Many tools have tried to market themselves on developer productivity; however, I believe that JBuilder 7 Enterprise will help any J2EE development team become much more productive. With this release Borland has opened up the JBuilder build process, providing the development team with a very flexible environment for introducing new technology. This should keep most developers happy!

SIDEBAR
Borland Software Corporation
100 Enterprise Way Scotts Valley,
CA 95066-3249
Phone: 831 431-1000
Web:www.borland.com
E-mail:[email protected]

Pricing
New User $2,999, Upgrade $1,899

Test Environment
Sony VAIO PCG-GRX316MP,512MB RAM, Windows XP Professional

More Stories By Andy Winskill

Andy Winskill is principal consultant at Rosewood Software Services Ltd., UK. He specializes in BEa and Rational softwre, and has more than 10 years of experience in designing and constructing EAI and B2B applications. Rosewood Software Services are BEA and Rational partners.

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