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Oh Beehive!

Oh Beehive!

It wasn't all that long ago, the last issue of WLDJ if I am not mistaken, that I expressed my dismay over why so few projects in my travels were using WebLogic Workshop as the primary development IDE. And only a few readers sent in e-mails regarding their reasons for choosing another IDE over Workshop - some of which had a lot of merit (actually, all of them did). And, not being too far removed from the subject, I just happen to be on a WebLogic development project where I came in midpoint through development, and - you guessed it - Workshop was not being used.

The poor IDE: so powerful and yet slighted by the development community, partly due to a lack of familiarity and perhaps because it does too much - in a sense becoming proprietary in nature. And then, lo and behold, BEA makes their announcement that they will be donating major parts of Workshop, mainly the development framework - code named "Beehive" - to the open source community.

This, of course, is on the heels of a major drop in the BEA stock price, coupled with market share losses due to fierce competition from companies such as IBM and from open source solutions such as JBoss.

You may wonder - and so do I - what's going on here? A company that not too long ago had a major hold on the Java application server market is now watching things slip through their fingers and is about to give away the one thing that they thought would provide them with an edge over the competition - the rapid development and deployment capabilities of WebLogic Workshop and its underlying development framework. I've heard a number of different opinions regarding whether a company today can survive primarily by selling Java application servers, and in my opinion application servers are taking the same path as the browser did a few years ago. Netscape was once in a similar situation and had the world in its hand, until, of course, the competition showed up.

Eventually, the Java application server will become part of the overall infrastructure, a commodity based on standards that allow J2EE applications to be deployed in any environment. And the innovations inherent in Workshop: off to a better acceptance through the open source community, and hopefully fueling the desire for developers to use Workshop over development tools such as JBuilder. You would assume, though, that the open software community would go ahead and develop a full IDE that would work on the framework, and it would not cost you a dime.

Where this will all go and how well BEA will benefit is anyone's guess, but to bank your future on an IDE, in my opinion, may be a little risky. Let's not forget that the real benefit from products such as Workshop are their ability to provide an integrated development environment for service-oriented architecture and process flow-based systems. Perhaps Workshop is a tool that is a little ahead of itself, something for the not-too-distant future, when a greater number of systems under development utilize Web services and process management engines, and the rest of us are still developing simpler J2EE applications. Where we don't need anything fancy to do our development, and off-the-shelf application servers will do.

More Stories By Joe Mitchko

Joe Mitchko is the editor-in-chief of WLDJ and a senior technical specialist for a leading consulting services company.

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