Put to the Test: Nexaweb Enterprise Web Suite 2.0

This clean, uncluttered development platform is purpose-built to deliver enterprise-class rich Internet applications, mash-ups and composite apps. Is it elegant in its simplicity or just plain simple?
Another Eclipse

Nexaweb Studio is the workhorse development tool. It's another (I'm tempted to say, yet another) implementation of the Eclipse platform. Nexaweb hasn't fiddled much with the Eclipse layout or terminology, which should smooth the learning curve for developers already familiar with Eclipse. Nexaweb does a fair job of mixing wizard-like support with straight-up coding, helping the novice but sometimes getting underfoot for the expert. For example, the setup for different types of projects seems like screen after screen of minimally explained options. Without belaboring the point, Nexaweb's implementation of the Eclipse workbench works well enough, but parts of it seem unpolished.

The important thing for Nexaweb is that under the umbrella of NXML, coders can produce Java or Ajax applications. These apps can be deployed to all popular Web browsers and all major operating systems (as long as a Java Virtual Machine is available); the best part being that Nexaweb provides the necessary plumbing (code) to make it work. Nexaweb can also create applications destined for mobile devices or the desktop (operating without internet connection), although these formats are not yet as fully supported and require more effort by the developer.

One of the more useful features of Nexaweb Studio is an automated refactoring of components — breaking the code into xInclude statements, which can then be fashioned into reusable pieces. Business logic is also well done; contained in Managed Client Objects, the logic is separated from UI and other elements and Nexaweb handles the deployment, instantiation, and life cycle management. Debugging tools are familiar and seem to work well in the Nexaweb system.

At the Edge of the IDE

While Nexaweb can be outfitted with Eclipse-based version control and other application management tools, don't expect the kind of well-integrated and full featured machinery available from its big competitors. Likewise, even though Nexaweb explicitly aims to wed Web 2.0 and SOA, the effort is on the coding end with Web services, not so much on SOA governance and orchestration tools.

There is a barebones feel to Nexaweb that can either be interpreted as a desirable simplicity, or as a possible lack of depth; it might be both. The most important thing is the ability of Nexaweb to work with other approaches and other tools. Overall, Nexaweb does a good job of using familiar patterns found in Java, Ajax, XML and many other standards. There's a training period involved in learning how Nexaweb stitches everything together, but the reward is enterprise-level rich Internet applications built with a relatively painless consistency out of a wide variety of elements.

Nexaweb Enterprise Web Suite starts at $17,900. Platforms: Server side – any platform that can run a J2EE application server. Client Side – any platform that can run a Java-enabled browser. Nexaweb Studio – Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Windows Server 2000, Windows Server 2008.

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