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conf2admin

Automate script creation for your WebLogic Server domain configuration

Enterprise software applications are complex, but almost certainly more complex is the underlying software that provides services and resources to these applications. There are different types of software that fall into the latter category, one of those being a Java application server, which of course for this article is the BEA WebLogic Application Server.

In this article I'll examine the use of scripting languages with WebLogic Server and use code generation to facilitate the creation of scripts.

Benefits of Scripting Languages
To be more productive, system administrators create scripts that enable them to rapidly execute repetitive tasks. These scripts can execute tasks for configuration and control. In the case of WebLogic Server, these scripts are used to do things like start and stop servers, or configure some aspect of a server.

BEA WebLogic Server has different types of scripting languages available today, two of which are shipped with WebLogic Server and one of which is an open-source program called WLShell. The two languages that ship with WebLogic Server are weblogic.Admin and WLAnt. The weblogic.Admin utility interprets commands that enable you to accomplish a variety of administrative tasks. The syntax of the language weblogic.Admin understands is proprietary in nature. The WLAnt language is a set of Ant tasks that accomplish tasks similar to those of weblogic.Admin. The WLShell language, while accomplishing similar tasks, is another syntax to learn, but adds an interactive shell for executing commands and interacting with the domain.

As with any programming language, there is a learning curve before you become comfortable with it. This learning process encompasses the language fundamentals and how to effectively use the language to your best advantage. After you learn the language fundamentals, you must then learn how to apply this to the WebLogic Server domain. Let's briefly look at how to apply each of these scripting languages to a WebLogic Server domain entity, the server.

WebLogic Server Domain
The BEA WebLogic Server has many components that provide runtime services and resources to applications running in it. Some of the components you'll find in a WebLogic Server domain are servers, clusters, JDBC Connection Pools, JMS servers, and JMS Queues to name a few. Each of these scripting languages is applied differently to these objects. For example, writing a script to create a WebLogic Server, along with some properties, for each of the languages would look like Listing 1. (Note: Some statements have been omitted for brevity.)

As you can see, each language has a different syntax for doing the same task, but each conceptually works in the same way, and for different types of WebLogic Server entities. Writing and maintaining these scripts can in some cases be a time-consuming process, keeping in mind that you have to be familiar with the syntax. In some cases, you might use scripts to help in the creation of an entirely new domain. Writing such a large script would be a time-consuming and potentially error-prone process.

We can, however, enhance the process of script writing using code-generation, which enables you to:

  • Rapidly create reusable management code snippets
  • Reduce the learning curve of one of the languages
  • Reduce the learning curve of applying the language to the WebLogic Server domain
  • Provide the ability to generate scripts in the language of your choice

    Introducing conf2admin
    conf2admin is a utility that processes a config.xml and produces output in the form of a scripting language. The current implementation includes support for weblogic.Admin, but Ant and WLShell are planned. The primary features of conf2admin are:

  • Runs against offline configuration
  • Generates scripts in the scripting language of your choice
  • Generates an undo file
  • Generates a script for deploying applications in the domain
  • Excludes certain WebLogic Server entities from output

    The BEA WebLogic Server domain configuration is an XML format file that describes the configuration for servers, clusters, and applications to name a few. The conf2admin utility works by executing an XSLT transformation against the config.xml document, and has XSL templates that produce the commands necessary for creating and setting values on WebLogic Server domain entities.

    Figure 1 illustrates the general concept of conf2admin. Before we continue, let's take a brief look at the core technology behind conf2admin, the Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations or XSLT.

     

    XSLT
    XSLT is an XML-based transformation language that works by matching templates against markup-like elements and attributes in an XML document. The templates in conf2admin match against elements in the BEA WebLogic Server domain configuration. The output from these templates is the script code that you will execute using weblogic.Admin or some other script interpreter. The following code snippet shows what a template looks like.

    <xsl:template match="//Server">

    <!—specify contents of template here ‡

    </xsl:template>

    XSLT is a good choice for working with an XML-based configuration. We can get document parsing for free from the XML parser, and a parser for the templates. Writing an XSLT template is pretty straightforward. I won't cover the XSLT specification in depth, but will focus on the sections of the stylesheet relevant to the code generation.

    Applying conf2admin to Medrec
    We'll take the conf2admin utility and run it against the WebLogic Server MedRec samples domain configuration. The MedRec sample ships with BEA WebLogic Server and includes a variety of WebLogic Server resources. Depending on which release of BEA WebLogic Server you have, your MedRec domain configuration might be slightly different. We'll run the utility and focus on the MedRecServer and JDBCConnectionPool resources that will be generated. Those resources are represented by entries in the domain configuration that look like Listing 2.

    When you run the conf2admin utility against the MedRec config.xml, the resulting file will be filled with many lines of generated code; the two snippets for our example deal with the server and the JDBCConnectionPool (see Listing 3)

    From the output you can see that a command for CREATE was generated that will create the server. There were also four SET commands created, each representing the set for an attribute on that Server. Listing 4 lists similar results for the JDBCConnectionPool.

    The conf2admin utility matches against elements in the configuration, in this case the server and JDBCConnectionPool elements, and instantiates the template for emitting CREATE commands. The stylesheet does not name the individual elements it looks for; it merely matches against whatever elements it finds. Next, within the template that emits the CREATE commands, conf2admin begins processing attributes and emitting commands to SET properties on the newly created server or JDBCConnectionPool entities. This flow of processing continues until the entire document has been processed.

    The conf2admin utility will also emit some comment blocks, which indicate the source location in the config.xml that the generated code came from. So in the example of the MedRecServer, the comment block looks like this:

    #================================================
    #==
    #== Creating MBean of type Server
    #==
    #== Origin: /[1]/Domain[1]/Server[1]
    #==
    #================================================

    The origin comment indicates the location in the document expressed as an XPath expression. The numbers in brackets are the indices of the element since in some cases there can be several of a particular type.

    Once the output is generated, you can use that file as input into the weblogic.Admin interpreter in batch mode. The documentation for conf2admin describes how to configure it to generate commands for stand-alone interpretation of script commands. The default is to generate commands to be used in batch mode of weblogic.Admin.

    Summary
    In this article I looked at the scripting languages that are available for BEA WebLogic Server and how you can use code generation to enable quick creation of management scripts. While seemingly powerful, there are some limitations to using XSLT to generate code. It does not include a friendly interface for looping to reprocess parts; instead, you must recursively call a template until you are finished processing. There is also no real concept of flow control within a template.

    Links
    The following links may provide you with more details about the technologies and concepts discussed here.

  • conf2admin on dev2dev: http://dev2dev.bea.com/resourcelibrary/utilitiestools/adminmgmt.jsp
  • WLShell: www.wlshell.com
  • WebLogic Admin: http://e-docs.bea.com/wls/docs81/admin_ref/cli.html
  • WebLogic Server Ant tasks: http://edocs.bea.com/wls/docs81/admin_ref/ant_tasks.html
  • XML 1.0 (Second Edition): www.w3.org/TR/REC-xml
  • XPath 1.0: www.w3.org/TR/xpath
  • XSLT 1.0: www.w3.org/TR/xslt
  • More Stories By Mike Jasnowski

    Mike Jasnowski is a senior software engineer on the BEA WebLogic Server Administration Console team. He has been involved in development for almost 20 years and in many industries. Mike is a contributing author to several books and author of JMX Programming (Wiley)

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