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Building Business Processes Part 1

WebLogic Integration development best practices

A business process in the real world typically is never done end-to-end by a single employee. It usually involves multiple employees/back end systems handing over work, similar to a 4x100 track relay where batons are passed between the athletes. The employees/back end should be passively notified of their tasks rather than actively waiting. BEA WebLogic Workshop provides a great framework to build these business processes for deployment on the WebLogic Platform.

Applications and Business Processes - What's the Difference?

Typically, programmers think in terms of applications (e.g., service-oriented architecture ) and non-technical people think in terms of business processes (e.g., the supplier should be notified if inventory levels reach a certain threshold). A business process orchestrates applications to go from start to finish. In other words, business process is a higher abstraction, or a controller or manager for applications.

A business process orchestrates applications but shields itself from the complexities inside them. Every software architect understands the importance of layering and separation of responsibilities. One way to accomplish this pattern is to build all the domain logic/data in the application and place all the decision logic in the business process.

No specification in the J2EE space addresses modeling business processes - entity beans address business domain objects, stateless session beans address synchronous services, and message-driven beans address asynchronous services. A business process spans applications and systems.

From a different perspective, a business process involves multiple business transactions, where each business transaction can be a combination of multiple system transactions. To build an application that keeps track of what transactions are complete, does compensating transactions when necessary, and deals with retry conditions could be a tedious and complex task. This is where BPM tools can really shine and make developers very productive.

Instead of building an application that coordinates other applications or services based on data passed to it, you can build a business process that coordinates applications. A business process can be defined as something that can be modeled by a GUI tool and can be easily modified and extended without writing any code or little code.

The WebLogic platform provides tools and an environment where business processes can be defined, executed, and monitored. Using Workshop, you can define a business process through a GUI tool and this definition is then compiled into EJBs (stateless session beans for stateless business processes and entity beans for stateful workflows).

WebLogic Integration JPD Best Practices

Having set the motivation for building business processes on the WebLogic 8.1 platform, we will cover some best practices that we identified in working with WebLogic Integration over the last year. This article lists the best practices and briefly discusses how to apply the concepts in development.

Use of Perform Node

Best Practice
Do not abuse perform node. Use it only when required. Use the out-of-the-box controls as much as possible and build new logic as reusable custom controls instead of embedding Java code into perform node.

Reason
Placing business logic in perform nodes hides the business logic from the process and makes the code not reusable. By building modular custom controls, the logic becomes reusable and pluggable.

Details
There are 10-15 bugs per 100 lines of code written. Fewer lines of code written, fewer bugs in the code. In many cases there may be an alternative to placing logic behind perform node. Use the out-of-the-box controls first. If one is not available, build a custom control.

Function/Method Names

Best Practice
Use meaningful names for method names.

Reason
The function names should be self-descriptive and something that makes sense because when you use the controls and processes, the method names are shown as operations. In order for the control/process user to understand and use the operation properly, appropriate names should be used.

Details
There are a number of places in the development where WebLogic Workshop generates default names for methods, including:

  • Client request nodes
  • Perform nodes
  • Auto-generated method names
When a process control is generated from the process, the control uses these method names for its operations. This means that these names are shown in the control palette for drag and drop, making it essential to use meaningful names.

Captions and Node Names

Best Practice
Use captions and node names that make business sense.

Reason
The JPD is a graphical representation of a business process. In order to understand it and achieve business value, the node names and captions for groups and operations should be appropriately named.

Details
Use names and labels that make business sense. For example, use "Get Customer" instead of "Get row from I_CUST table in Oracle". The process label is a useful query string so design the values rather than leave it up to the implementor. For example, if a support person will need to find an order number, have it represented on the process label. Set Process Label to relevant query values.

Parallel branches are synchronized only at their termination points. A join condition is defined at the termination of multiple branches to specify how the termination of branches terminates the overall parallel activity. Valid join conditions are AND and OR.

Naming Conventions

Best Practice
Define and follow naming conventions for all of the resources.

Reason
If naming conventions are not followed, it will make application maintenance a nightmare.

Details
In a WebLogic Integration application, there are several resources created by developers and the IDE. Once you start developing, you will have a wealth of resources. If proper naming conventions aren't followed, the project will become unmaintainable. It is recommended that you define and use naming conventions for folders, controls, transformations, xquery files, processes, and other resources.

A rule of thumb following the standard Java convention of lower-case package names and names starting with upper case for classes: any names that will be part of a package should be lower case and any resource that will be used as a class will be upper case. This means that folder names will be in lower case and controls will start with upper case.

For channels use the suffix, "Channel" and start the first letter in uppercase. An example would be <Xyz>Channel.

Grouping Nodes

Best Practice
Create logical groups in the process as appropriate and use proper labels.

Reason
Grouping nodes improves clarity and provides more control over exception handling.

Details
You can create a group from one or more nodes or other groups. You can simplify the display of your business process in the Design View by collapsing a group of nodes into a single node. A group can provide an extra level of exception handling logic - exception handlers that you specify for a group catch exceptions that are not handled by exception handlers defined for nodes inside the group.

Namespaces

Best Practice
Use proper namespace values.

Reason
Namespaces are frequently used in package names of generated classes.

Details
Use appropriate namespaces in resources like XML schema and channel files. When XML beans are generated, a namespace is used for the package name of the XML bean objects.

Transformations

Best Practice
Create transformations separately and use them in processes.

Reason
If a temporary transformation is created from the process, you don't have much control over it.

Details
Transformations are created automatically and placed in the same folder as the process. Whenever a transformation is changed, a new xq file is created and placed in the same folder. The old xq file is orphaned and left there. This results in orphan files and ultimately results in an explosion of files. A new transformation control is created every time a transformation is tried. So, organize transformations in a separate package, create the transformation, and use it in a process. Even if you create a temporary transformation, you can organize it by changing the names and moving it to a different package.

Organizing the Project

Best Practice
Organize the project by grouping similar resources.

Reason
If the project isn't organized properly it will be unmaintainable and will make it difficult to understand and troubleshoot

Details
Create folders (which in turn act as packages) and group controls, transformations, and processes separately. For example, you can create packages called controls and transformations and place the control files and transformation files in the respective folders. This will group, for example, transformation files and xquery files in the transformations package. Separate groups of logically related processes into separate directories.

Summary

This article introduced you to the benefits of modeling business processes and explained best practices in building business processes on BEA WebLogic Integration 8.1. It focused on making team development and application maintenance easier.

In our next article, we will focus on best practices in building business processes with scalability, recovery, exception handling, guaranteed delivery, and performance.

References

  • WebLogic Workshop Documentation: edocs.bea.com/workshop/docs81/index.html
  • WebLogic Integration Documentation: edocs.bea.com/wli/docs81/index.html
  • More Stories By Vijay Mandava

    Vijay Mandava joined BEA as a technical manager in the Professional Services organization in 1999. He now works as a principal systems engineer in the Systems Engineering organization. Vijay is a Sun certified Java programmer and a BEA certified Weblogic Server developer.

    More Stories By Anbarasu Krishnaswamy

    Anbarasu Krishnaswamy has over 15 years of IT industry experience, nine of which were with BEA. In his current role as the Enterprise Architect Lead, he leads the enterprise architecture and SOA practices for the central region professional services at BEA. As a SOA practitioner, he has helped several customers with SOA transformation and implementation. His experience also includes design and development of Java/J2EE applications, client/server computing, Web development, and enterprise application integration (EAI). Anbarasu holds a MBA from NIU and an MS in computer science and engineering.

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