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Put to the Test: BEA Delivers a 'Best-of-Hybrid' Development Environment 2

Workshop for WebLogic Platform 9.2 makes Eclipse more approachable, surrounding it with well-chosen libraries and development functionality.

Counting on SOA and Web 2.0

BEA is staking much of its corporate identity (and future) on service-oriented architecture (SOA), so it isn't surprising that Workshop has excellent tools, based on the latest standards, for producing Web services. The various pieces of value-added programming BEA has put on top of JSR-181 are extremely useful, and they include support for asynchronous callbacks, state management with conversations, a Web-services test browser, messaging with JMS, and security features, such as WS-Reliability, WS-Security/WS-Policy and digital signatures.

BEA is also laying the groundwork for Ajax support in future versions by working with other companies such as Backbase (an Ajax specialist), but there's not much visible in this version of Workshop. Like most conventional Web app IDEs, the transition (which is no longer a maybe) to Web 2.0 techniques is likely to be a major headache because of the need to integrate intensive use of JavaScript in an all-Java IDE, but hopefully only BEA's designers will feel the pain.

Debugging, Deployment And Versioning

For the most part, debugging is the domain of Eclipse, particularly JDT Debug. From the IDE, debugging has common features, such as stepping, breakpoints and evaluation. Syntax checking, test runtime modes and testing harnesses for Java are well-developed, but the heterogeneous nature of Java implementations makes remote debugging difficult (compared with, say, Microsoft's debugging tools in .Net). Because Workshop for WebLogic is designed for a BEA environment, both deployment and debugging are more consistent and reliable. Version control is handled by the Concurrent Version System (CVS).

Anyone who has used a major IDE product will find the BEA-Eclipse-Beehive environment comfortable. If there is an area where it is not particularly supportive, it's with data-driven programming. This is not a database-oriented environment, and the tools (controls) for accessing data as well as orchestrating data manipulation are not well coordinated.

Staying Focused

Although BEA doesn't have product reach of an IBM or an Oracle, within the last year or two the company has pointed its products in one direction: SOA. These products are becoming a small but complementary family: WebLogic Portal, WebLogic Server, AquaLogic (Enterprise Server Bus), served by Workshop development products. BEA Workshop products have a developer community large enough for critical mass in the Dev2Dev forum, Discussion Forums and Development Blogs.

A question that is often asked in the Java community these days is, "Since Eclipse tools are so good (and free), why do we need one company's IDE?" The answer is in BEA Workshop for WebLogic 9.2. For the expert Java programmer, Eclipse source code may be all that's needed. For everybody else (and probably some experts too), making Eclipse more approachable and surrounding it with good choices in libraries, and other functionality, increases the range and productivity of Eclipse. For enterprise shops in which not every developer is an expert, BEA Workshop for WebLogic stands out as a top choice.

Workshop for WebLogic Platform 9.2 Developer licenses are free, but deployment may require purchase of BEA WebLogic Server, BEA WebLogic Portal and/or BEA JRockit.

Nelson King is a 25-year veteran of the coding wars. He has written nine books on application development, and his tool evaluations are widely published.