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To fully appreciate the power behind Workshop, you need to know a bit about Java Web Services (JWS), an up-and-coming standard in the J2EE world. Just as you can embed Java code in a JSP file and have it compile on the application server, Java code in a JWS file is compiled automatically into a Web service.

JWS allows you to take standard method calls in a Java class and, by adding one or more Javadoc-based annotations, instruct the Web application server to expose the method as a SOAP-based Web service. Workshop allows you to map an XML element in the SOAP message to a specific method parameter. This allows the service to maintain its public contract (the underlying SOAP interface) while changing the implementation.

Features
The Design View, an integrated development environment, contains a visual representation of a Web service and a runtime environment where you can code, compile, deploy, and test a Web service under development. The beta version I used came bundled with a prerelease version of WebLogic Application Server 7.0 and WebLogic Builder.

Design View
The Design View is made up of several window panes showing various aspects of the Web service under development (see Figure 1). The left side contains both a project and a structure pane, the right a property panel where you can modify the characteristics of the Web service. A visual representation of the service is provided in the center pane. When you click the source view tab, it switches to an editor containing Java source code.

Figure 1

Building a Web Service
Workshop provides developers with the ability to create and deploy Web services just by creating and configuring objects in a "painter"-like interface. Within the Design View, you can set up one or more public interfaces for the Web service and attach the control interfaces of the EJB components, database objects, etc., to the service. The underlying Java code that you write for the service integrates the various control interfaces into a functioning Web service.

Building and deploying your Web service is extremely easy and seamless. Initiate the build, and you're only a few seconds away from testing the interface in the test harness. If all goes well compiling the JWS file, the process of building and deploying (no syntax errors) works each and every time.

Test Harness
Workshop's browser-based test harness facility contains everything you need to verify and diagnose your Web service. The overview tab in the harness contains various links to the WSDL for the service, client source code, a description of the service, and some other useful links. The console tab takes you to the WebLogic console, where you can monitor the various components that make up your service. The Test form and Test XML tabs provide you with the ability to run the Web service and monitor the request and response messages. The harness automatically comes up when you build your Web service, and is essentially testing a fully deployed Web service.

First Impressions
The GUI design is clean and visually appealing; the service controls and adapters are well laid out and easy to read. The complete development cycle is quick and seamless; you can easily run through a complete test cycle in under a minute.

One particular aspect of the Design View I found unique is the instant code checking feature. If there's a problem in your code, it'll immediately be underlined with a wavy red line. Move the mouse focus on top of the error condition and a description appears. The autofill feature in the editor worked equally well, and listed the various methods available on a particular instantiation of a class.

Web Service Debugging
The IDE provides several of the standard debugging features you would expect in a Java development tool. I ran one of the Web service examples in debug mode and set a breakpoint or two. It worked as you would expect it to when invoking the service through the test harness. This is definitely an added bonus.

Limitations
BEA WebLogic Workshop is not a Java IDE in the traditional sense. It simplifies J2EE development for developers who don't know J2EE APIs. While you don't build EJBs directly in WebLogic Workshop, the runtime creates EJBs to implement the Web service. Also, although the builder can easily set up a JMS queue for an operation, Workshop does not assist in setting up JMS publish and subscribe message interfaces. You'll need to set them up manually or use a utility that comes with the messaging server. Also, the product does not contain an embedded workflow engine, so all workflow activity needs to be managed within the Java code.

Conclusion
Workshop has the potential to be a powerful tool in the development and deployment of large and complex Web services, where you can literally see how it all fits together and works. Combined with the latest version of BEA WebLogic Server, it becomes a very impressive platform.

BEA Systems, Inc.
2315 North First Street
San Jose, CA 95131
Phone: 800 817-4232
Web: www.bea.com
E-mail: [email protected]

Testing Environment
OS: Windows-XP
Hardware: Dell Inspiron 8000

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