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Getting Started with WebLogic Platform 8.1

Getting Started with WebLogic Platform 8.1

BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1, first announced in March 2003, is now generally available. This release provides substantial productivity benefits for developers wishing to build new applications, integrate existing applications, and extend these applications to different groups of end users.

This article will encourage you to get started with WebLogic Platform and perform your own evaluation. We begin with a discussion of WebLogic Platform's capabilities and benefits, and follow with an overview of the Platform Tour application that ships with the product. The Platform Tour illustrates how BEA WebLogic Platform enables development of applications combining enterprise portals, Web applications, Web services, business processes, and custom business logic, all within the unified development environment provided by BEA WebLogic Workshop.

Capabilities and Benefits Summary
BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1 includes these component products.

  • WebLogic JRockit: The industry's first JVM designed and optimized for server-side applications. WebLogic JRockit 8.1 incorporates new J2SE 1.4 features and other development and performance enhancements.
  • WebLogic Server: The leading enterprise application server, and the foundation of WebLogic Platform. New features in this release include performance enhancements, Web services security and reliability enhancements, and configuration and monitoring enhancements.
  • WebLogic Workshop: The unified development environment and runtime framework for WebLogic Platform applications. WebLogic Workshop 8.1 supports development of Web applications, custom controls, EJBs, business processes, and portals, as well as Web services applications, without requiring J2EE expertise.
  • WebLogic Integration: The only solution offering rapid business integration today, supporting business process management, enterprise resource access, and integration services. WebLogic Integration 8.1 leverages the WebLogic Workshop development environment, and includes significant runtime and administration enhancements.
  • WebLogic Portal: A comprehensive solution for delivery of custom enterprise portals. WebLogic Portal 8.1 provides a more flexible architectural framework for portal deployments, enhancements to business services such as content management and search, and new tools for portal life cycle management.

    BEA WebLogic Platform combines the individual component products listed above into an integrated package with unified installation, configuration, licensing, documentation, operating system support, and maintenance support. WebLogic Platform 8.1 provides customers with faster time to value in their development projects through:

  • Converging development and integration: Development of custom applications and application integration is accomplished in the same environment. Developers are able to focus on developing business logic rather than technology integration.
  • Mass market J2EE: WebLogic Workshop now supports development of a wide variety of enterprise applications without requiring J2EE expertise, bringing the power of J2EE to a broader range of developers and development projects.
  • Foundation for service-oriented architectures: Built-in support of software reuse through controls, pervasive Web services and XML support, and other capabilities enables development through composition of existing services and components.
  • Unified development environment: WebLogic Workshop now provides a single tool in which the full range of WebLogic Platform applications can be developed.

    Finally, BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1 makes it easy to get started with development of applications by leveraging all of the above capabilities. In addition to component product tutorials and examples, we've shipped a "Platform Tour" with the product that introduces the major product features, and illustrates how applications combining portals, Web applications, controls, Web services, and business processes can be developed using the unified WebLogic Workshop development environment. The following sections provide an overview of the Platform Tour, and how Platform applications can be constructed.

    Getting Started
    Get started by downloading BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1 from the download link on www.bea.com and perform a complete installation. Installing on Windows or Linux systems is recommended in order to use the Workshop IDE as well as to run the Platform Tour. At the end of the installation you will have the option to launch QuickStart, which provides useful links for new users and product evaluators. When the QuickStart application launches, select "Take the end-to-end WebLogic Platform tour", which will launch the Platform Tour application.

    Platform Tour Business Scenario
    The Platform Tour is based on a business scenario in which Avitek, a vendor of electronic office equipment, has built a corporate intranet for managing employee information and equipment purchases. Launching the Platform Tour launches a browser and prompts the user to log in. Logging in as an employee using Tour instructions brings you to the employee portal.

    The employee portal contains five portlets. The "Navigation" portlet on the upper left illustrates how Platform components are being used to render the page you are currently viewing. The "Doc Tour" portlet in the lower left provides access to detailed documentation on the Platform Tour. The "Log out" portlet on the upper right enables users to log out of the application. The "Employee" portlet displays employee information from Avitek's employee database. This information is being presented by a Web application that accesses database information via a Workshop control and renders it in the portlet. The "Order" portlet enables users to place orders for office equipment and view order status. Submitting an order via this portlet causes a Web application to call an order management business process via a Web service. This business process will automatically route the order to the employee's manager for approval.

    Logging out and then logging back in as a manager brings you to a manager view of the intranet portal. This page allows the manager to approve employee equipment orders. Approving the employee order from this page will call the same order management business process, resulting in the order being approved and submitted, and the employee being notified of the approval. Logging out and then logging in again as an employee allows you to view the approved status of the order. This simple example application illustrates functionality commonly used in enterprise applications: portals to provide application access to different target users, Web applications to access databases and implement business logic, Web services for application integration, and business process management for orchestrating execution of business processes across applications.

    Now let's see how WebLogic Platform lets you build these types of applications within WebLogic Workshop. To do this on Windows and Linux systems, you launch the WebLogic Workshop IDE, through either QuickStart or the Windows Start Menu.

    Viewing the Employee Portal Within the Workshop IDE
    The Platform Tour is implemented as two WebLogic Workshop applications, one (e2ePortal) implementing the user portals and one (e2eWorkflow) implementing the business process, which can be deployed, managed, and updated independently from the portal application. Opening the e2ePortal application and selecting the employee.portal file enables you to view in the IDE the employee portal that we were accessing earlier when we executed the Platform Tour application (see Figure 1).

    The WebLogic Workshop IDE uses consistent paradigms that enable visual development of different application and file types. In Figure 1, the Application Tab in the upper left-hand side shows a structured view of the files included in the e2ePortal application. The Edit Pane in the center provides a visual representation of the file that is currently open. This view of the employee.portal file shows the five portlets incorporated into the employee portal we accessed earlier. The Palette on the lower left shows UI controls that enable books and pages to be dragged, dropped, and added to portals under development, and the Data Palette on the lower right shows portlets that are available to add to portal pages being edited. The Property Editor on the upper right shows properties, such as layout properties, that have been assigned to the Employee Page currently selected in the design view. Let's take a closer look at how this application has been structured to cause the display of employee information within this portal.

    Displaying Employee Information
    If you select the employee portlet in the design view, you can see the Portal instance properties that have been assigned to this portlet. The Portlet URI property shows that this Portal page points to a separate employee.portlet file, which controls which application information will be displayed within the employee portlet. Opening the employee.portlet file and inspecting the Portal Windows properties reveals that the portlet will call the begin action on a Java Page Flow (JPF) file implemented in BEA WebLogic Workshop.

    Java Page Flows, based on the Struts architecture, enable the development of Web applications within WebLogic Workshop. A page flow links together multiple Web pages in a Web application and provides a central control mechanism (controller.jpf file) that coordinates the user's path through the pages and associated flow of data. Figure 2 shows the employee page flow called from the employee portlet using the Flow View in the Workshop IDE.

    While the visual representation of a JPF is different from the visual representation of a portal file, Palettes and Properties continue to provide a consistent visual, drag-and-drop development environment. WebLogic Workshop provides two-way visual/source editing for JPFs that enables programmers to view and edit the source code corresponding to the Flow View of the application, and to write and include their own Java business logic. The flow diagram in Figure 2 indicates which pages are loaded by action methods, and which actions are raised on JSPs. In this case we've called the begin action that loads the info.jsp page. Double clicking on info.jsp displays this JSP in the Workshop JSP editor.

    The WebLogic Workshop JSP Editor supports two-way visual/source construction of JSPs, as supported with other file types. In the Design View you can see that this JSP has been constructed to display the employee information (employee name, SSN, etc.) that was displayed earlier when we executed the Platform Tour. The application has been implemented such that employee information is accessed from an employee database using a Java control with the results displayed in the form specified for this JSP. Java controls make it easy to encapsulate business logic and to access enterprise resources such as databases, legacy applications, and Web services. WebLogic Workshop applications can use built-in controls provided with the product, or custom controls created by developers with the Workshop IDE.

    Integrating Business Processes
    Performing a visual inspection similar to the above indicates how the e2ePortal application is integrated with the business process in e2eWorkflow. The properties of the order portlet within the employee portal point to an order.portlet file. This file references the order page flow as defined in the order controller.jpf. Opening the order controller file reveals that the order page flow contains an action called placeOrder, which uses the WorkflowInvoker Java control to invoke the order requisition business process via a Web service. The resulting application behavior is that when an employee submits an equipment request, the order requisition business process is invoked via a Web service.

    The order requisition business process, OrderRequisition.jpd, is depicted within the Edit Pane of the WebLogic Workshop IDE (see Figure 3), which provides a Design View and a Source View of the business process being created. Each icon represents a node or step in the business process. When the employee submits the order via the Web service, the receive order node receives the order and starts the business process, sending a message to the manager for order approval, and so on, consistent with the process flow illustrated when we originally executed the Platform Tour application. The same drag-and-drop visual paradigm is supported for adding nodes and controls into business processes, and to set properties on business process nodes.

    By inspecting the Platform Tour application shipped with BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1, we've seen how WebLogic Platform supports the ability to develop, in a single tool, applications combining enterprise portals, Web applications, Web services, business processes, and custom business logic. Common, intuitive, visual paradigms are used throughout these tools, simplifying the development experience, enabling developers to focus on business logic implementation rather than product or technology integration. Users interested in getting started can walk through the steps described in the article and familiarize themselves with product functionality at a high level in a matter of minutes. However, this discussion touches on the Platform Tour implementation only at a high level. The Doc Tour included with the application provides more detailed explanations for developers interested in further exploration. The WebLogic Workshop tutorials, component examples that ship with each of the component products, and Platform documentation provide developers with what they need to become productive developers of WebLogic Platform applications. Download the product now and get started - good luck!

  • 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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