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Simply SOA

Open-Sourced Beehive is the Driving Technology Behind the BEA WebLogic Workshop IDE

It's all quite simple you see. In a major move last year, BEA made a significant and very welcome contribution to the open source community by donating the Beehive framework to the Apache software foundation. Beehive, perceived by many in the industry as somewhat proprietary in nature, is the driving technology behind the BEA WebLogic Workshop IDE and was engineered with one thing in mind: to help make your life easier as a WebLogic and J2EE developer. As I have heard over and over from the marketing folks, it takes care of all of the plumbing for you. And with true respect, I believe that to a certain degree it lives up to its promises.

Moreover, at the time of this writing, the Apache Beehive Incubation Project is humming along quite nicely, and has already produced an alpha release that is available for download. All of a sudden, easy J2EE programming is no longer just some proprietary solution from one of the leading application server vendors, but is now open and available to run on a number of platforms. At last, perhaps things will get simpler you say, when the software industry finally accepts this technology and it catches on like other open source success stories, like for instance Struts. And one day it may even officially become part of the J2EE standard. Well, that day may come sooner than you think.

You can sum up the up-and-coming J2EE 1.5 release with two words: Java annotations. It seems that the Java development community is yearning for simplicity too. It is just too complex they say. Java annotations, which are based on JSR 175, provide the developer with more power, and with the wave of a wand and declaring a few things in the Java comments, you can make a simple Java class turn into a Web service. Now, as a programmer, I can truly savor the simplicity of not having to worry about such things as WSDL generation and SOAP marshalling. It lets me concentrate on solving the business problems (the core coding), and lets the annotations take care of the rest. This, of course, is the essence of how WebLogic Workshop and its underlying Beehive framework work, and it is just a matter of time before it becomes officially part of the J2EE JDK. At last, the developer's plea for simplicity is being heard by the vendors, the open source community, and the standards committees that are driving the future of J2EE development.

In this lies one big monkey wrench that will surely make us yearn for the good old days of editing deployment descriptors by hand, and that is what the SOA world has in store for us. Everyone is expounding on how their product will support the SOA world of tomorrow, and BEA is no exception when it comes to this. But when you break the thin veneer of the SOA hype, and dive down into the details of the still emerging set of WS-* standards, the visions of simplicity quickly begin to disappear. I would tend to agree with the old timers who say SOA is just rehashed technology from yesteryear, with the likes of CORBA, etc. We'll, it wasn't so simple back then either.

Integration is one of the most difficult tasks to deal with as a developer or architect, and the same old problems that plagued us back then are still around to haunt us today. To address these complexities, emerging standards such as WS-CAF define transactional activity across multiple Web services, and introduce old concepts, such as transactional context, into a new world of Web services. BEA has done the industry a great service by leading the way for simpler J2EE development. Unfortunately, it will not be nearly enough to make our life easier in the SOA world of tomorrow.

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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