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Colonial Workshop

Colonial Workshop

Have you ever visited one of those theme parks that depict life as it was in colonial times? I'm always fascinated by the blacksmith and other craftsmen who show you just how hard it actually was to produce items that we take for granted, and how many modern inventions, such as electricity, they did without. They look happy, but I know it's just a show for the tourists. No one wants to use archaic methods to create things.

In the BEA world, I'm reminded of the differences between modern convenience and these theme parks whenever I work with BEA WebLogic Workshop. I've had some time in front of the 2.0 beta, and I'm impressed with their direction.

I worked with the first version, which was primarily geared to making it easy to create Web services, and was not particularly useful for most other aspects of working with the WebLogic Platform. Still, I liked the easy way that you could assemble different functionality into controls (like a database query, or an EJB), then use them in a drag-and-drop IDE to create Web services (you did read my bio, didn't you? I'm big on Web services.). From an ease-of-use standpoint, it was light years ahead of most of the other Java tools. Creating a Web service took a few minutes, and you even got a free client out of it. Of course, it wasn't a very useful client, but at least you could test if your service worked.

But there's more to life than Web services, and Workshop 1.0 didn't do much for other things in WebLogic, like Portal or Integration.

A marketing fellow I once knew described programmers as falling into three different segments. First there were the hard-core, VI-using, command-line gurus who do the really intense programming - the guys who write Linux kernel drivers for fun. Then there were the corporate programmers, who are more concerned with getting the next release of the corporate accounting package out on time. Then there were business analysts. Don't ask me how they got into the programming category; I never got a straight answer on that one either.

The point this guy had was that each segment needed different tools because they approached fundamentally different problems. The hardcore programmer attacks highly detailed, complex technical problems. For that, and because they build the fundamental building blocks of the organization, they need down-to-the-metal access, much like C++.

The corporate programmers have a different problem - getting a large application of relatively simple tasks (yes, I know, nothing is simple, but some things are more complex than others) put together under tight deadlines. They need less flexibility, and more speed and effort saving devices.

Don't ask what the business analysts need.

Workshop 2.0 is for the corporate programmer. You can do Web services, as well as develop portlets and work with BEA WebLogic Integration in one drag-and-drop interface that treats complex objects (such as Web services or JCA) as simple controls that can be wired together.

Not that it's perfect mind you - you can't do thick-client development at all, and it's still got some rough edges on what you can do - but it's certainly a much better environment than using text pad. This is a corporate developers' tool and will compete directly with .NET Studio.

Enjoy BEA WebLogic Workshop. It's a refreshing change from more hard-core programming environments, even if you ultimately have to go back to them for certain tasks. Now, I think my WebLogic Server just threw a horseshoe. Got to go find a code blacksmith...

More Stories By Sean Rhody

Sean Rhody is the founding-editor (1999) and editor-in-chief of SOA World Magazine. He is a respected industry expert on SOA and Web Services and a consultant with a leading consulting services company. Most recently, Sean served as the tech chair of SOA World Conference & Expo 2007 East.

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